What is the Best Crime? | Varyer

What is the Best Crime?

A few days ago, I found my neighbors huddled together on the sidewalk looking at an overturned garbage can lid. Nestled within, glistening in the morning sun, was what concerned bystanders quickly determined was a ~human~ turd.

Added up, there are probably miles of canid, avian, and human feces smeared on the streets of New York. But something was unnerving about this particular poop. The classical dollop composition 💩, the almost ceremonial presentation within the lid . . . it resembled a thoughtfully-plated meal, a gourmet morsel being served up on a plate.

It was a message. Eat shit.
So far, no neighbor has stepped up to dispose of the now-frozen turd. As the scatological standoff continues, I find myself curious about the wider criminal world. Among all the moral, legal, and fecal violations—which is the best? These are their stories; let’s decide.

White-Collar Crime

Like a child tricked into learning addition by tallying up pieces of candy, I only engage with the dry world of corporate fraud when the cases are wacky. The chicken wings embezzlement scheme, with its titillating “lunch lady gone bad” angle, is the ne plus ultra of the genre, but I’m also a fan of the Deux Moi–ish drama of insider trading.

I first encountered the concept when a distant cousin of mine, who carried a cell phone the size of a loaf of bread, was convicted of securities fraud in the nineties. Per my father’s prophetic bitching about mere slaps on the wrist for arrogant, BMW-driving assholes (my father disliked this branch of the family), my cousin paid a fine and got off easy. But one of his coworkers did go to prison, and when she got out, she could only find a job cutting hair for rich toddlers. Thanks to the finicky art direction from the toddlers’ parents, she said that her new job was a much harsher punishment than her minimum-security correctional facility.

Finance bros seem to be incredulous that insider trading is a real crime. The internet is overflowing with articles that interrogate a bro’s moral premise, asking, “What is really unethical about insider trading?” They’re outraged over cases like Rajat Gupta’s; a self-identified humanitarian with an admirably feeble LinkedIn presence, he seemingly got in trouble for merely repeating information. He didn’t use the information for personal gain (unless you count the dopamine rush that every gossip bitch craves).

If insider trading is not a crime, then it’s incapable of being the best one. It’s ironic that it fails due to a technicality, falling victim to the gray area where Wall Street often thrives.

The best chronicler of rich crimes is Dominic Dunne. Plus his work is old, so you can google everyone and see how their lives turned out.

Junior White Collar: Richie Rich

Once upon a time, your local finance felon was just an entitled teen. And even in a bear market, a trust fund combined with a cluster B personality disorder goes a long way. In Manhattan, like the statistic that a rat is within six feet of you at any given time, there’s always a Chuck Bass–level delinquent in the room.

In the throes of a job I hated, I spent a lot of time standing in the office kitchenette meditating via the water cooler label. I thought about cool streams in European forests or Ms. Frizzle taking her class on a field trip to a water treatment plant. From there I pondered the oceans and how they’ve existed since the dawn of time, and that helped me internalize the concept that my suffering (working until 8 pm) was just a blip in the fabric of history, and therefore endurable.

Sometimes Dominique, an intern from the one percent caste with a last name you’d recognize, joined me in the kitchenette. She took personal calls while steeping her yerba maté (a habit picked up at Argentinean polo camp—not as cute as matcha but better for weight loss). It provided a surreal Leachian soundtrack to my reveries:

  • Have you talked to him about Yucatan yet?

  • My ex Eric is a plastic surgeon and when they do a facelift, they put their fingers under the forehead skin and it looks like they’re tossing pizza dough. He let me watch on CCTV.

  • I want Morpheus8.

  • But how can you tell if your ass is clean if you’re using black toilet paper?

Eavesdropping on her was a form of escapism, and it quickly supplanted the aquatic meditation routine as my coping method. Dominique operated with zero constraints. She wore $700 shirts to the office that exposed her nipples. If traffic was bad, she got on a helicopter. It was electrifying to witness someone treating life like a Supermarket Sweep (but at Erewhon).

“I took my ex Eric’s PJ when I brought my dog Tinker to Aruba,” she said into her phone one day. “What? What’s a PJ? Private jet. PJ.” She sounded scandalized by the ignorance, but I was glad whatever scrub was on the other end of the call had dared to ask—I hadn’t understood either.

I realized “took” meant “stole” when Dominique went on to explain she’d scammed free rides on Eric’s father’s PJ by using his family’s NetJets account, the way a middle-class hag might use a third-party Netflix login.

When Dominique tried to use the jet again, she was arrested. (On the tarmac! Glam.) Legal negotiations led to a reconciliation with Eric the Ex and he had his father drop the charges. She walked away with an Instagram-ready mugshot, a Van Cleef & Arpels engagement ring, and, presumably, full access to the family NetJets account.

It doesn’t seem fair, but then again, rich-on-rich crime is victimless—aside from the larger damage to an unequal society, etc.

Petty Crime

Raised by a man who made enthusiastic use of 1-800-HOWSMYDRIVING bumper sticker hotlines, I inherited a Costanza-grade sensitivity to minor civic injustices.

Twenty years later, I seethe over a catcaller who saw me yawn on the street at 7 am and confided, “Damn, I’d love to stick my dick in there." This statement still rings through my head every time I yawn, see someone yawn, or, tbh, let someone actually stick their dick in there.

After my phallic morning, I borrowed pepper spray from a friend. She warned me not to carry it in my pocket like she had—it leaked and seeped into her jeans, setting her crotch on fire. She’d had to go to the ER and have her genitals irrigated with saline by an annoyed nurse. On the way home, she was hit by a car while crossing the street. She woke up back in the hospital and found a $300 jaywalking ticket that a cop had tucked into the pocket of her bloody jeans.

Crimes of Passion

Left Eye getting her nickname because someone specifically complimented one of her eyes is better than any superhero origin story. Freebie: that’s the Best Compliment. ✅

An explosion of temper is satisfying for the perpetrator, but for a bystander, this genre isn’t as rewarding as a well-crafted Ocean’s 11–caliber caper.

But I appreciate Left Eye burning down Andre Rison’s house. And I look forward to being old and feeling free to go buck wild like this gentleman—with death right around the corner, the threat of prison can’t be much of a deterrent for senior citizens. Why don’t more of them go berserk?

Left Eye getting her nickname because someone specifically complimented one of her eyes is better than any superhero origin story. Freebie: that’s the Best Compliment. ✅

Civil Disobedience

One Christmas in the Trump era, my family went to visit my grandparents’ graves in Kentucky. (Fun fact: they have the honor of being interred a few plots over from Colonel Sanders!) As we emerged from the parked minivan, a hunched figure standing by a headstone caught our eye.

“That guy looks like the ghost of Mr. Burns,” my aunt said. My family is comfortable judging strangers at full volume, no matter the circumstances. A mourner alone in a graveyard on Christmas: fair game. Asking for it, even!

When we got closer, things clicked into place—the security detail nearby, the soft pink jowls, McCONNELL engraved on the monument—and we recognized him as senator and current majority leader Mitch McConnell. My mother pointedly wondered why he was on vacation (in a cemetery, but still) while the government was in a shutdown.

At this point, we were passing just a few feet away from Mitch. He was angled away from us, and my mother impulsively gave him double middle fingers, like you might when a teacher’s back is turned; the gesture was more for us than him. Then he looked up and saw her.

She blurted, “Merry Christmas!” but quickly corrected herself: “Fuck you!” Then she turned and ran.

My mother waited in the car with a baseball hat covering her face while we pretended we didn’t know her and laid a wreath on our grandparents’ graves. Mitch returned to DC and eventually ended the government shutdown, for which my mother took credit. “I really made him think,” she said.

Domestic Disruptions

There’s a billboard by my house that states NO HUMAN BEING IS ILLEGAL. In the context of immigrants, yes, but when it comes to houseguests, I disagree.

Arnold was a friend of my then-bf Xavier, and he came to crash at the one-bedroom apartment Xavier and I shared. I should have heeded the warnings coded into the terminology of hospitality. A crash is uncontrollable and damaging. A host implies the presence of a parasite. But Arnold was fleeing some kind of open relationship crisis, and initially I empathized with him; polyamory is a sexual pyramid scheme, and he was a victim.

Arnold later sued a woman in a case I’m afraid to link to but it’s much like this one. While the lawsuit is incel-y (Although I love the nonviolent spin! Very progressive!), I sympathize with the impulse to formally punish someone for hurting your feelings.

Arnold showed up with a sleeping bag and a loaf of sliced supermarket bread. He didn’t want to impose and eat our food, so he’d just make peanut butter sandwiches, he said. But he’d forgotten peanut butter.

“You can have some of our peanut butter,” I said. It sounded stingy, so I added, “Or anything else,” even though I didn’t mean it. It was hard enough keeping my snacks for myself with just Xavier around.

It turned out that Arnold had a nine o’clock bedtime, six hours before Xavier and I usually went to sleep. While Xavier and I sat on the couch watching TV, Arnold rolled out his sleeping bag on the hardwood floor, zipped himself in, and shut his eyes. I could only last until the next commercial break before I fled to the bedroom, but Xavier was fully at ease enjoying hours of sitcoms with a man sleeping at his feet.

During the day, when Arnold wasn’t in his sleeping bag, he and Xavier didn’t talk. I was the only one disturbed by the seemingly-awkward silence. “You know, like how crumbs on the floor only bother you, not me,” Xavier said, as if explaining to a dense child that only she could see her imaginary friend.

The oppressive days passed. I wore a bra in my own home. Arnold’s loaf dwindled.

He might not sound so bad. But I’d always imagined when I grew up and had my own home, I would be a uniquely thoughtful, revered hostess to friends, family, and worldly travelers. Arnold destroyed this cherished fantasy by making me act like a total bitch. I hid the peanut butter. I stacked books in the spot on the floor where he liked to sleep. And on the sixth day, I toasted the last slice of his bread and ate it.

As if this act had lifted a curse, he decided to leave that very afternoon.

Capers and Cons

From the entry-level grift of faking your birthday at restaurants for a free dessert to a good old-fashioned jailbreak, this is a fun category. It’s blessed us with Anna Delvey, the Pink Panther jewel heist ring, Catfish, the sexiest Robin Hood, D.B. Cooper, and the total freakfest Frédéric Bourdin.

I support art theft when it’s done creatively. Who cares! We have pictures of it.

Those are the big boys, but sometimes the simple moves shine. I’m impressed by the quick thinking of this woman whose car was stolen—knowing it would take the cops forever to track it down otherwise, she lied and told them her child was in the backseat. They found it really fast! Great life hack.

Madly in Love

So many crimes these days are convoluted and digital, requiring the informed citizen to develop a working knowledge of corporate finance law. I resent that Sam Bankman-Fried caused me to end up on an Investopedia page about the Keynesian multiplier. And while I’m grateful that the Murdaugh saga isn’t an exercise in macroeconomic theory, it’s excessive in scope. I don’t have the attention span for the South Carolina spinoff of 100 Years of Solitude.

The 🏆 had to go to a human, but misconduct by baby elephants and macaques deserves an honorable mention.

Give the people (me) a crime with a simple plot, a bold premise, and a refreshingly analog execution. Give me the Mad Pooper.

This queen was a suburban jogger who pulled off a series of public poops with aplomb, often in broad daylight, captivating a nation. Despite Proctor & Gamble offering her a free year’s supply of their Charmin-brand toilet paper if she turned herself in, she remains unidentified and at large, seemingly protected by a strict omertà.

The Mad Pooper’s oeuvre casts the proverbial turd on my own sidewalk in a new light. I don’t flatter myself that my local turd is the work of the Mad Pooper herself. Like Banksy, she has many imitators. But even if it’s inauthentic, my sidewalk turd no longer seems like such a threat; it’s more of a playful gesture, a welcome mystery in our age of information overload. It’s provoked discourse between neighbors, inspired this masterpiece of thought leadership, and reminded us that Banksy blows. Thank you, Mad Pooper.

Verdict: The Mad Pooper’s spree is the best crime.

The 🏆 had to go to a human, but misconduct by baby elephants and macaques deserves an honorable mention.