The criminal history of Clint Steele and his sister Bonny Steele began when they were kids, stealing change from their parents. Later as teenagers, they rummaged through their dad’s old coin collection stealing old “wheat back” pennies. They stole all types of coins in and out of circulation, but as adults, they stole lowly pennies from banks.
They stole a large Brinks truck because they were on the run from stealing all pennies from 35 local Nashville banks. They hauled over $10,000 in pennies from Nashville, Tennessee to Hilton Head, South Carolina. In Tennessee, they weren’t public enemies #1 and #2, because they only stole the lowest denominator coins from banks, but they held an unprecedented record for stolen pennies.
Their life of crime in Hilton Head began immediately. When they arrived in Hilton Head, they forced a gas station attendant at gunpoint to give them “all pennies” in change. It became no surprise that their first heist in Hilton Head began on a March 30 – “National One Cent Day.” But later, they got sloppy by making too many cashiers give them pennies only in change. Within a week, they were caught by baffled police who couldn’t understand the sibling’s penny obsession, but they got out on good behavior.
It was at that point they began robbing banks in Hilton Head. However, they quickly became easy to spot, because they ran into the banks wearing masks that resembled Abraham Lincoln along with tall black hats on their heads. If that wasn’t enough verification Clint and Bonny’s calling card became, “Penny for your thoughts” as they held a gun at the teller’s head.
Clint and Bonny were the butts of jokes among Hilton Head police, such as: “They love their zinc pennies but hated “coppers,” or “They make a lot of cents (sense).” They may not have liked the police, but they never joked about the rumor they melted their copper pennies down to make copper bullets. That was another one of their crimes since melting copper pennies to bullion was a federal offense. It was said they had copper fillings for their teeth. The duo later edited their “welcome” call at bank tellers, “Penny for your thoughts or I’ll fill ya full of copper!”
The police managed to catch them during a high-speed chase that covered every road in Hilton Head. The two tried to escape on one of the bridges that connected the island to the mainland, but the cops had already headed them off at the bridge. Clint and Bonny were forced out of their car and taken to jail.
One month later, the brother and sister were brought to court. Clint spoke for Bonny when asked how they plead – “Guilty, your honor.” Their plea didn’t surprise the judge. What did make him curious was why this brother and sister only stole just pennies. So, he asked them, “Why steal just pennies?”
“When we were kids, we loved collecting coins, but we especially thought the penny brought us good luck,” Bonny said. “We could have stolen nickels, dimes, or quarters, but being the humble people were are, the penny was as high a currency as we wanted to go. Copper and zinc rule!”
Bonny’s reply stunned the judge; it simply didn’t make any “cents.” So, he stared at the two and banged his gavel as he told them to stand up. He proclaimed, “Clint and Bonny Steele: I’m sentencing you both to work hard labor in the copper-nickel mines from morning to noon. Then you both will go to the prison’s coin club meetings where you will learn to appreciate learning about other types of coins.”
They didn’t mind hard labor in the copper mines, but going to coin clubs were horrible – absolute torture for any human beings. Clint yelled at the judge, “This coin club meetings are unfair.” Then Clint said frantically to Bonny, “Sis, we’re being ‘nickeled, dimed and quartered.”
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