An automotive and sign painter by trade, Funke was later medically examined at trial and said to have minor brain damage likely from the fumes from his workspace. He began his criminal career in 1988 when he found himself needing a small amount of money to kickstart a new career as a sausage-vendor on Germany's streets.
He planted a small bomb in a KaDeWedepartment store in West Berlin, and phoned from East Berlin (Still very different areas, East Berlin's infrastructure and police services often not connected to the Western equivalents). He successfully extorted 500,000 DM. He returned to extortion in 1992, having spent the money, placing a bomb in Karstadt in Hamburg. He set up a complex money transfer scheme, with a box attached magnetically to a train. In August, he escaped with the box, but it contained only a few hundred marks, otherwise being filled with scraps of paper. He continued to target Karstadt stores through 1993 and 1994, but did not obtain any further money.
One of his bombs did $4.5 million in damage in the sporting section of KaDeWe, Germany's largest department store.
For six years, the extortionist who had started calling himself Dagobert after the German name for Scrooge McDuck, baffled police and entertained the general public. Due to his careful precision and effort to eliminate any chance of anybody being hurt in his attacks, he was seen as a harmless prankster by many, and "I am Dagobert" t-shirt sales were brisk at kiosks throughout the city. When police released a tape of his voice in an attempt to trace him, a music group mixed it into a rap song dedicated to "Dagobert", during his later trial he would explain that he wanted to be like the Disney character and "swim in money".
To collect his blackmail payments, he would devise intricate mechanical devices that would speed along railroad tracks, have false bottoms and he continued to elude detection, though he barely eluded capture at the last minute several times, including once when a pursuing detective slipped on wet leaves and fell.
He was finally caught on 22 April 1994, and sentenced to 7 years and 9 months imprisonment; the sentence was later increased to 9 years imprisonment on appeal. It was estimated that the police had spent nearly $20 million on his pursuit.
He was released on parole after serving 6 years and 4 months on 15 August 2000. The expected media frenzy caused authorities to actually release him a day early to avoid the crowds.