It's a set-up so perfect it reads like fiction: A promising minor league baseball player who was so good at stealing the back of his card touted him as having a 77% success rate at stealing bases went on to become one of the masterminds of a ring of thieves. But Amy Wallace's piece for GQ is entirely true and tells the story of that former player, Darrell Dent Jr., and Ryan Stearman, the 30-something Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives special agent who helped bring the ring down. Dent's descent into crime didn't begin after his baseball career ended; rather, it helped force the end of that career. After he joined the Baltimore Orioles-affiliated Bowie Baysox, his roommate came to discover Dent had forged some $15,000 worth of checks in his name; he was released.
He played for a few more teams, but the criminal activity continued. It wasn't until late 2011 that the crux of Wallace's story comes to life, when Dent meets former convict Keith "Green Eyes" Walton. They started by orchestrating cell-phone store robberies before moving on to a much more lucrative mark: stealing luxury watches from Southern California jewelers. Dent and Walton didn't participate in the actual smash-and-grabs, in which a small team would often use sledgehammers to break the cases while an armed member of the group threatened those in the store; they picked the targets, scheduled the robberies, assembled the crews, and fenced the goods. Their heists ultimately netted $6 million worth of goods, "one of the most sophisticated and lucrative smash-and-grab sprees in US history." Read the full story to learn how Stearman caught up with them, and what late-model Chevys had to do with it. (Read more Longform stories.)