On a cold winter’s day, near a quiet riverbank in Washington state, Brian Ingram was digging in the dirt when he found a mysterious buried treasure. This wasn’t just a handful of coins hidden there for fun by his parents. This treasure would change history.
What Brian didn’t know was that not only had he stumbled on a cache of loot, but he’d uncovered a clue to the one of the world’s most puzzling unsolved mysteries. And while the young boy was over the moon at first, that excitement would pale in comparison to what he and his family felt after learning the true origins of the treasure.
It was February 10, 1980, and the Ingram family had been camping near Tena Bar, along the Columbia River just outside of Vancouver, Washington. The family was hungry, and Brian, who was eight, was assigned the task of clearing space for the campfire.
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As his father brought over a bundle of wood, ready to build the pile, Brian, below, reached down to smooth out a clean spot in the sand. His hand brushed over what felt like newspaper. Curious, he kept digging.
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As stacks of high denomination bills were unearthed, Brian was ecstatic. He’d discovered buried treasure: the total was $5,800 (worth about $19,400 today)! Exciting as it was, the family soon realized this sum of money could be linked to something dangerous, so they reported it to the FBI.
It was a good thing they did. Just days later, the FBI turned up to the campsite with a team and hand-searched the whole beach, hunting for more bills. They’d examined the money the Ingrams had turned in and found a shocking clue.
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Though many of the bills had been partially eaten by insects or damaged by weather, there were several that were intact, and the FBI was able to trace their serial numbers to money that had been involved in a famous 1971 crime.
When the FBI returned a few of the bills to Brian, they told his family what they’d discovered. The $5,800 was just a small portion of a sum of ransom money, demanded nine years prior by an airplane hijacker who’d completely vanished. That, they thought, was impossible.
The D.B. Cooper Forum
The FBI theory went like this: On November 24th, 1971, an ordinary-looking man in ordinary-looking clothes entered Portland International Airport, in Oregon, and bought a one-way ticket to Seattle on Northwest Orient Airlines, Flight 305.
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The man gave his name as Dan Cooper, a name which would turn out to be an alias. He paid in cash, and he carried no luggage — except a black briefcase.
Just after the plane had taken off, this mysterious man passed a note to flight attendant Florence Schaffner. I have a bomb in my briefcase, it read, handwritten in felt-tip pen. I’m hijacking the plane.
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Quietly, she asked to see the bomb. Cooper angled the case so the other passengers couldn’t see, and lifted the lid to expose eight red cylindrical explosives, linked by red wires to a large battery.
From Schaffner’s perspective, it looked pretty real. She filled the pilots in, who in turn radioed the tower and asked what to do. The safest thing for the passengers was to listen to what the guy wanted, they said.
Cooper asked that Northwestern arrange to have $200,000, four parachutes, and a refueling truck waiting for the plane on the tarmac in Seattle. Schaffner relayed the demands to the pilots, and Northwestern’s president agreed to comply.
With everything arranged, Flight 305 touched down in Seattle at 5:39 p.m. The money was passed over to Cooper, and the passengers were allowed to leave, but Cooper demanded that the flight crew stay onboard. He had an additional plan.
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Once the plane was refueled, Cooper revealed that he wanted them to fly him to Mexico. The crew agreed, but they told him the plane was too small to make it without stopping — so they’d have to stop in Nevada.
Northwest Orient Airlines
If this threw a wrench in Cooper’s plans, he didn’t show it. The plane left from Seattle… with five other planes tracking it, including two fighter jets. Cooper ordered the whole flight crew to lock themselves in the cockpit and not come out for the duration of the flight.
About a half-hour after takeoff, the crew noticed an upward movement in the tail of the airplane, as well as a change in air pressure. A warning light showed that Cooper had activated the rear stairs, opening the back door to the jet, and jumped from the plane.
Two hours later, the aircraft landed in Nevada. None of the tracker planes had seen Cooper jump; in the night, wearing all black, he’d been invisible. A manhunt immediately started along the flightpath, and based on the time noted by the crew, investigators guessed Cooper had fallen near Mt. St. Helens.
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But despite their searching, not a stitch of evidence of Cooper’s landing could be found. The FBI used aerial cameras to look for parachutes or broken trees; they went door-to-door, asking homeowners what they’d seen; they even found a skeleton that solved another open case — but no Cooper.
The search continued for years, becoming the most expensive and in-depth search and recovery mission ever, but neither D.B. Cooper nor the remaining ransom money were found. The FBI maintains an online list of the missing $20 bills, though — just in case another civilian like Brian Ingram comes across one.
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Since then, Brian grew up, married, and started a family, and while he kept a few $20 fragments, he auctioned off several of the bills to help fund his kids’ college education. He keeps an out for reports the FBI caught up to D.B. Cooper.
If the bureau’s track record is anything to go by, searching for the crook isn’t a completely hopeless task. After all, the FBI manged to track down one of Russia’s most conniving spies.
When you’ve got a bright, unforgettable look, you tend to stand out in a crowd. And when you stand out, no one suspects you of hiding anything. That was to the benefit of Anna Kushchenko, a woman with an IQ of 162 and flaming red hair.
Born in 1982 in Stalingrad, Russia, Anna grew up accustomed to a fairly luxurious lifestyle. Her mother was a teacher, but her father was a Russian diplomat who mostly worked in Kenya. Anna was a star pupil and went on to study economics in Moscow.
Like most wealthy college students, Anna used her long summers off to travel and explore the world. In the summer of 2001, she visited London, and immersed herself in the local nightlife. One evening, she met a man who immediately captured her attention.
His name was Alex Chapman. “I knew right away I had to talk to her,” he said. The two hit it off and continued to see each other, with Anna flying back and forth between Moscow and London for the rest of her studies.
After dating for just 5 months, the couple got married. They knew their families would be skeptical, so they decided not to tell them right away. This would be the first in a long string of secrets the two would keep from their families — and from each other.
Keeping their marriage a secret was not only technically difficult but emotionally as well. A few months after their wedding, Alex and Anna Chapman went to visit Anna’s parents in Africa. That was when Alex first met Anna’s dad, the curious Vasily Kushchyenko.
Alex mentioned that Vasily was “scary” and that he had a “huge influence” on his daughter. Vasily didn’t trust Alex for one second, and Alex was not fond of his new father-in-law, either. The newlyweds soon returned to London, and Alex tried to shake off the haunting memory of Vasily as best as he could.
As the couple settled into married life and Anna received an English passport, everything seemed to go perfectly. Anna graduated with first-class honors and took up jobs at big investment corporation, landing gigs at NetJets and Barclays. Slowly but certainly, her behavior began to change.
Around 2005, according to Alex, Anna started increasingly meeting with people she referred to as “Russian friends.” If this was the only issue, Alex may have let it slide, but Anna seemed to become a completely different person.
Suddenly she was more materialistic than before, spending all her money on designer clothes, bags, and jewelry, which she probably needed to fit in with her new V.I.P. friends. She attended party after party, bragging about whom she met, “like a midlife crisis,” Alex said.
By 2006, Alex and Anna had grown apart and filed for divorce. Despite the many connections she had made in London, Anna decided to move back to Moscow — but not before telling Alex a crucial family secret.
Her father, she said, used to be a top agent in the notorious Soviet spy agency, the KGB! Leaving Alex to mull this over, she returned to Moscow. Nobody heard from her for several years; only her closest friends and relatives knew that she was even still alive.
Years later, Anna finally popped up again in New York City. Nobody understood her sudden decision to relocate to America — she always claimed she didn’t like the place and mocked American accents when she watched TV. And yet, here she was, posing in front of the statue of liberty.
Anna got to work immediately and quickly became the head of an international real estate business. When she wasn’t working (in an office), she was out mingling with members of the high society, and it was soon rumored that she was dating New Jersey tycoon Michel Bittan.
On one hot summer day in 2012, Anna received a strange call from a man who called himself Roman; he claimed to be a Russian consular official. He asked her to meet him at a coffee shop using a code phrase.
“Didn’t we meet in L.A. last summer?” he asked when they met, and Anna, well-trained, knew exactly how to respond: “No, I think it was the Hamptons,” she said, using the code phrase.
Roman asked her to deliver a fake passport to an alleged spy in an agreed-upon location the following day. Anna hesitated — she had never met this man before, nor had she ever received similar instructions, but she took the passport anyway.
Once the meeting was over, she immediately bought an untraceable burner phone and anxiously placed a call to her father, Vasily. He told her to hand the passport over to the police right away. That way, it would seem like she did the right thing in case it was a trap.
Unfortunately for Anna, it was already too late. The FBI had been tracking and watching her for months, and they finally had enough evidence to put her in cuffs. She instantly became a sensation as her picture was splashed across newspaper covers and details of her deep-cover mission on behalf of Russia were exposed.
The FBI reported that it once tracked her sending secret signals to a Russian diplomat from inside a bookstore in New York, so they bugged her, recorded her, and followed her every move. Her encounter with “Roman” was only the final straw. The jig was up for Anna.
As it turned out, Anna was only one of a ring of 10 Russian “sleeper” agents busted that summer — a spy. She ended up confessing her sins to avoid a lengthy trial and was instead sent back on a one-way plane to Moscow in return for four double agents who were destined for the U.S. and England.
Surprisingly enough, the captured spies were greeted at home by none other than Russian President Vladimir Putin. A former KGB agent himself, Putin celebrated the returning comrades.
Far from being treated as criminals, the uncovered agents were hailed as heroes in a grand ceremony full of fanfare and patriotic music. It wasn’t an outcome even Anna expected.
Now, everybody knew the name, Anna Chapman. People wondered how on earth she could have pulled all of this off by herself. During one of her many media appearances in Russia, Chapman hinted that her secret weapon had been the art of seduction.
In fact, she was suspected of trying to seduce famous American whistleblower Edward Snowden. She once Tweeted at him “Will you marry me?” but Snowden couldn’t tell if she was serious or not. When she was asked about it on a TV interview, she simply stormed out.
The man she was once actually married to, Alex, had given several interviews about their relationship since the arrest, mostly to Anna’s dismay. However, in May 2018, he was suddenly found dead at the age of 36. It was written off as natural causes, but many people suspected otherwise.
Anna was fairing much better, becoming a multi-millionaire with her fashion boutique, financial consultancy, and glamorous photoshoots. She even landed a gig on a local TV show and dove into politics, but nothing surprised her fans more than her sudden hiatus.
While Anna had been avidly posting on social media for years, she suddenly disappeared from the spotlight for a while in 2015. As it turned out, she had been hiding a pregnancy and gave birth to a son. She did not share the identity of the father.
Since then, Anna has been focusing less on modeling and more on a political youth movement. With her seat on the Young Guard of United Russia (the youth wing of Vladimir Putin’s party), she has been “engaged in educating young people.”
No matter how, it seems that Anna is adamant about remaining in the spotlight, making both the press and her fans very happy. After all, she seems to have been born for this.
There is no telling what this “former” spy will do next, but there have been whispers about her running for office. With a wildcard like Anya Kushchenko, only time can tell.