The most famous scammers



Fraud – is stealing someone else’s property or acquiring the right to another’s property by deception or abuse of trust. Fraud, as a rule, is a crime. The criminal definition of fraud varies depending on the country or jurisdiction.

In the cinema around scams and scammers, a story is often built. However, few people know that around us, in real life, there are people whose “feats” were even more provocative and defiant. Most of the most high-profile sellers were eventually revealed, but who knows if another genius scammer is working next to us? The techniques and techniques of some of them remained original, and someone managed to come up with something that is still used. It should be noted that most of the twelve most legendary scammers have ended their lives not in wealth and fame, but vice versa.


Victor Lustig

(1890-1947) was born in the Czech Republic and already had five languages ​​at the end of the school: Czech, French, English, Italian and German. Glory to this man brought a deal to sell the Eiffel Tower. It is Lustiga who is widely considered one of the most talented swindlers ever to have lived. Victor’s brain constantly generated more and more new scams, he was helped by 45 pseudonyms to hide from justice. In the States alone, Lustig was arrested fifty times, but each time the police were forced to release him because of insufficient evidence. If before the First World War, the swindler showed himself mainly in organizing dishonest lotteries in long transatlantic cruises and in card games, then in 1920 Victor appeared in the United States, where it took him a couple of years to deceive several banks and individuals into tens of thousands of dollars. However, the most famous trick of Lustig was the sale of the Eiffel Tower. The adventurer was in Paris in 1925, where he read in the newspaper about the dilapidation of the famous tower and that it requires repair. Lustig quickly figured out how to use this, he made up a false credential that certified him as deputy minister of post and telegraph. Then Victor sent out “official” letters to six of the largest representatives of companies for recycling metal. Meeting with entrepreneurs took place in an expensive hotel, in which the “state face” stopped. Lustig “in secret” told businessmen that the cost of the tower is unreasonably high, so the government and organizes a closed auction for the sale of the Eiffel Tower for scrap. The total weight of the tower was 9 thousand tons, the starting “government” price was lower than the price of scrap metal, which naturally pleased businessmen. And in order to prematurely not create public discontent, Lustig asked to keep this news in secret. The right to recycle the tower was bought by André Poisson for 50 thousand dollars, Victor himself with a suitcase of cash received fled to Vienna. The entrepreneur was so afraid of looking like a fool that he concealed the fact of fraud over him, although the brigade of the assemblers honestly appeared on the specified day for the demolition of the tower. The swindler was forced to flee to the US, where he continued a series of frauds. Al Capone himself became one of Victor’s clients! Lustig in the early 30’s returns to Paris and again does the same trick, this time the Eiffel Tower sold for 75 thousand dollars! Only in December 1935 Lustig was arrested and convicted. The total amount of the verdict for the forgery of banknotes, as well as for the escape from prison, was 20 years. Victor Lustig finished his days in 1947 in the famous Alcatraz, a prison near San Francisco.

Frank Abigneyle was born on April 27, 1948, at the age of 17 he managed to become one of the most successful bank robbers in American history. The young man started his career as early as 16, his first father being his first victim.The young man managed to forge a lot of bank checks, thanks to which he fraudulently received about five million dollars. Frank loved to travel, but he did not pay for air travel, preferring to use fake documents here. Most often Frank pretended to be a Pan American pilot, at the age of 16 to 18 he was able to fly at the expense of the company that granted the right of free flights to its pilots, more than a million kilometers. From the real actions to manage the ship, Frank refused, referring to the alcohol content in the blood. Almost a year Abignale in the hospital in Georgia, pretended to be a pediatrician, and then, with the help of a fake diploma from Harvard University, even could get a job at the office of the Attorney General of Louisiana. For 5 years, the swindler has managed to visit a specialist in 8 professions, while continuing to falsely cheat with excitement. As a result, Frank’s actions affected banks in 26 countries around the world. Where did the young man spend big money? This, of course, meetings with girls, luxury restaurants, prestigious clothes. At the age of 21, the swindler was caught and imprisoned, but soon a talented man left her and began to cooperate with the FBI. This story was later embodied in cinematography, where Leonardo DiCaprio played a talented and witty swindler in the movie “Catch Me If You Can”. For a long time, Abignale could not find a permanent job, since no one wanted to contact the former crook, but over time he managed to organize his business on the grounds of protecting banks from tricks like him. The program of protection against fraud Abignale is used in more than 14 thousand companies, making it the author of a legal millionaire. Frank has a wife and three sons, one of whom works in the FBI, and agent Joe Shay, chasing a swindler in the 60’s, became his best friend.

Christopher Rokankurt

, born in 1967, became famous as a fake Rockefeller. A rogue of French origin was finally arrested in Canada in 2001 for committing a number of major frauds. Christopher claimed to be a representative of the Rockefeller family, besides he is Bill Clinton’s close friend. The wife, former model Playboy Maria Pia Reyes helped the crook in his tricks. She was also accused of cheating and deliberately deceiving a businessman from Vancouver in a ski resort in Whistler, where wealthy people from Europe and America gather. The police believe that Christopher made his first crime in 1987, for three years the police tried to get any evidence against him, until in 1991 she was arrested on suspicion of robbing a jewelry store in Geneva. However, Rokankurt’s guilt could not be proved, he was only deported from the country, forbidding them to appear there until 2016. In the mid-90s, the swindler sails to the US, where he takes down a luxurious mansion in Beverly Hills and pretends to be the nephew of an Italian tycoon. There, then Christopher and turns the novel, and then marries Maria, who, by the way, was aware of his true passport details. A cheerful and cheerful man quickly entered the confidence of rich and noble neighbors. Soon Christopher came to the conclusion that it is much more useful for him to be a relative of Rockefeller, the more his real name is consonant with him. In a new image, Rokankurt develops a violent activity – he moves around the city exclusively by helicopter, at least in a limousine, appearing as a financier, leads a luxurious life. His friends are Mickey Rourke and Jean Claude Van Damme, whom Rokankurt even promised 40 million dollars to shoot a new film. However, movie stars were just a cover for the activity of the swindler, using his own way, he took money from businessmen for investment. It turned out that the activities of Rokankurt stretched to Hong Kong and Zaire, only in one of the areas of Los Angeles, the beau monde allocated nearly $ 1 million to the fraudster, the true scales of the scam remained unknown.In August 2000, the swindler was arrested, but after going on bail, he started running and showed up in the same Whistler, where together with his wife he tried to deceive another simpleton. In 2002, Rokankurt was issued to the United States, it recognized the fact of fraud for $ 40 million, theft, bribery and perjury.

Ferdinand Demara

(1921-1982) became famous as the “Great Pretender”, because for his life he played a huge number of images of people from various professions, from a monk and surgeon to the head of the prison. For the first time, life under a new guise began for Demara in 1941, when he joined the US army under the name of his friend. However, there, failing to get the desired position, staged suicide and began to play a new role, now a psychologist. Subsequently, he repeated the same trick again and again. Not finishing high school, Ferdinand often forged documents on his education, in order to successfully play another role. Demar’s fraudulent career includes such diverse professions as a doctor of psychology, an editor, a Benedictine monk, an oncology specialist, a construction engineer, a deputy sheriff, a teacher, a surgeon, a prison director, a lawyer and even an expert of the Children’s Rights Protection Service. The most interesting thing is that all these tricks did not pursue material benefits, Demar was interested in the very fact of a new social status. The most famous fraud Ferdinand was his service as a surgeon on a Canadian destroyer during the Korean War. There he was able to conduct several successful operations and even stop the epidemic. A grateful publication about a capable doctor and exposed him, since there was a real doctor with that name. However, the military did not begin to sue Demar. The story of his life Ferdinand sold to Life magazine, after which it became harder for him to find work. He received his first and only diploma in education in 1967. About the life of this extraordinary man a film was made and a book was written. He died from heart failure, in the status of a Baptist priest.

David Hampton

(1964-2003) posed as the son of a black director and actor Sidney Poitier. In 1981, the future rascal came to New York. The first step of the newly-born David Poitier was free meals at restaurants. Then the crook realized that his image was pretty convincing, and he could get money from famous people under the pretext of charity. So, in the number of deceived stars were Kelvin Klein and Melanie Griffith. Soon Hampton expanded the range of his activities, one black rascal said that he was a friend of their children, someone told a heart-rending story of his own robbery, in his arsenal was the story of being late for an airplane and lost luggage. In the end, in 2003, Hampton was arrested on charges of fraud. The court sentenced him to pay compensation to the victims in the amount of 5 thousand dollars. Refusing to pay this amount, David was sentenced to five years in prison. The swindler from AIDS in the orphanage died before he even reached his 40th birthday. In 1990, based on the activities of Hampton, the film “Six Degrees of Alienation” was filmed. After the success of the cinematic project, the former rogue tried to threaten the director, claiming his share of the profits. As a result, David sued the creators of the film, demanding $ 100 million, but the court rejected these claims.

The duo Milli Vanilli

is not known for its hits today, but because its members did not know how to sing at all. The scandal with the popular German band broke out in the 90s, it turned out that the voices on the studio records belong to strangers, not to the “singers”. But in 1990 Rob Pilatus and Fabrice Morvan even got a Grammy for their creativity! The duo itself was created back in the 80’s, quickly gaining popularity. During the period of activity the group managed to sell 8 million singles and 14 million records.The deception unfolded like this – in 1990, while singing in Connecticut “live” songs “Girl, you know, it’s true” the soundtrack began to seize, repeating constantly the same phrase. The main responsibility for the deception lies with the producer of the group, Frank Farian, who invented an uncomplicated scheme according to which a fake but charming duo just danced and opened his mouth on the stage, while other people sang. As a result, the prize was selected, and 26 lawsuits were filed against the group and the recording studio. To somehow recover after the scandal, Farian in 1997 agreed to again become a producer of the group, in which the participants sang now with their voices. However, Rob Pilatus was already closely acquainted with drugs and alcohol by the time and on the day of the presentation of the new album was found dead in the hotel. Death was due to an overdose of doses of tablets and alcohol. Morvan tried to continue his musical career, he was a musician for hire, a DJ. However, he could not reach the previous heights, although he released his solo album “The Revolution of Love” in 2003. The history of the group Milli Vanilli interested filmmakers, Universal Pictures studio announced its readiness to make a film about it.

Cassie Chadwick

(1857-1907), nee Elizabeth Bigley became famous for being the illegitimate daughter of Andrew Carnegie, a large steelworker. The girl was first arrested at the age of 22 for forgery of a bank check, but quickly released, thanks to the skillful simulation of a mental disorder. In 1882, Elizabeth married, but after 11 days her husband abandoned her, because he learned about her past. The next woman elected was Dr. Chadwick of Cleveland. By the time of her marriage, Elizabeth had visited the fortune-teller and the hostess of a brothel, and also served four years in prison. Before Chadwick, the swindler portrayed a noble lady, who did not even suspect that there was a brothel in her guest house. The most successful scam succeeded Cassie in 1897, when she began to appear, as already said, the daughter of Carnegie. To do this, Mrs. Chadwick asked a lawyer she knew to take her to Carnegie’s house, pretending to have been inside, she “accidentally” dropped a check with a promissory note at home, which was noticed by her companion. This news quickly flew around the local financial market, a woman thanks to a false bill of $ 2 million issued to her “father”, received loans in different banks. The total sum of damage amounted to 10 to 20 million dollars. As a result, a rich relative was interested in the police, who asked Carnegie if he knew anything about his “daughter”? After a negative response from the industrialist, the police quickly arrested Mrs. Chadwick. At the time of the arrest, the fraudster himself found a money belt full of over 100,000 rubles. On March 6, 1905, a trial took place over her, which proved her participation in 9 cases of fraud. Mr. Chadwick shortly before the trial filed for divorce, at the hearing, Andrew Carnegie himself attended, wishing to look at the one who appeared to be his daughter. The woman was eventually sentenced to 10 years in prison, she brought several suitcases, carpets and furs to the cell, but after only 2 years Elizabeth died in custody.

Mary Baker

(1791-1865), known as the Princess Karabou, appeared in this status in Gloucestershire in 1817. She wore a turban on her head, she was dressed in an exotic outfit, and no one could understand her speech, since she spoke not in an unknown language. The stranger first lived with a magistrate, then in a hospital where she refused any food, thence she returned again to the hospitable Mrs. Warrall. None of the foreigners could understand the outlandish language until one of the Portuguese sailors recognized the language. The story of the stranger said that she was Princess Karabou from the island in the Indian Ocean. The woman was captured by pirates, but their ship soon crashed, but she managed to escape.The next two months, the princess was in the center of attention all around, because she not only wore exotic clothes, but also climbed trees, sang strange songs and even swam naked. However, soon after the appearance of the portrait in the local newspaper, Princess Karabou was identified by a certain Mrs. Neil, who recognized her as the daughter of a shoemaker named Mary Baker. Working as a servant, the girl indulged in the fact that she entertained the children with the invented language. As a result, Mary was forced to confess her deceit, in punishment the judge sent her to Philadelphia. There the woman again tried to fool the inhabitants with her story about the mysterious princess, however, the townspeople were not so easy to navigate. When Mary returned to England in 1821, she again tried to use her legend, but now no one believed her. The rest of her life the woman was engaged in selling leeches at one of the British hospitals, and her deception served as the basis for the film “Princess Karabou”, released in 1994. Wilhelm Voigt

(1849-1922) – German shoemaker, famous for his daring trick as Captain Köpenick . The speculator was born in Tilze and at the age of 14 was convicted of a petty theft for two weeks. This was the reason for the admission of a teenager from school, he had to teach the craft of a shoemaker from his father. By 1891, out of his 42 years, Voigt had spent 25 behind bars for forgery of securities and theft. After his release he did not live long in Berlin, where he was to be evicted in 1906 as unreliable. However, the unemployed illegal Vilhelm on October 16, 1906 in the Berlin suburb of Köpenick bought a second-hand uniform of the captain of the Prussian army and organized the seizure of the local town hall. That’s how it was. Voigt, dressed in military uniform, went to the local barracks, where he ordered the four grenadiers and the sergeant to follow him. The soldiers did not dare disobey the officer. Then Voigt ordered them to arrest the city burgomaster and treasurer, then he alone seized the local town hall and confiscated the entire treasury. To officials, the fraudster stated that he was arresting them for stealing state funds, they themselves confiscated money as evidence. After ordering the soldiers to guard the detainees, Voigt went to the station, where he changed his clothes and tried to hide. However, after 10 days the swindler was caught and sentenced to 4 years in prison. The process was widely publicized, the sympathies of the common people were on the side of Voigt, even the English were amused by what had happened, noting how much authority the Germans were in the form of a man. In 1908, history reached the Kaiser Wilhelm II, amusing him, and by his personal decree, the swindler was released. This story made Wilhelm very popular, he even gave autographs on behalf of Captain Köpenick. In 1909 he published his book about this amazing event, in 1910 the author even visited with her presentation in Canada. Voigt retired a rich man, living his days in his own house in Luxembourg. Subsequently, this story served as the basis for several films and many plays, and on the steps of the town hall of Kepenik today there is a bronze statue of the legendary captain.

George Psalmanazar

(1679-1763) declared himself the first witness of the culture of the Aboriginal people of Formosa. Allegedly he was the first resident of this exotic place, who visited Europe. Formosa in Portuguese means “beautiful island”, and this island is the largest of the group of islands of Taiwan. Psalmanazar was born in France, in a Catholic family, and his real name remained unknown. He did not finish the ending at the Jesuit school, because he got bored there. So George set out on a trip to Europe, pretending to be a soldier, then an Irish pilgrim. In 1700, Psalmanazar appeared in Northern Europe with tales of his exotic origin. He explained European clothing and appearance by the fact that he was kidnapped by Jesuit monks from his homeland and brought to France in order to force him to accept Catholicism.As proof of his legend, Psalmanazar told about the details of the life of the aborigines, about their sun worship, their own calendar. At the same time, the swindler got acquainted with Holland and converted to Christianity, receiving his name at baptism, with which he became famous. In 1703, George finds himself in London, where he becomes famous, mainly for his strange habits. So, he slept directly on a chair, and ate raw meat, flavoring it with spices only. In 1704, even a book appeared under his authorship, “Historical and geographical description of the island of Formosa, which belongs to the emperor of Japan.” In it, Psalmanazar said that on the island men walk completely naked, covering the intimate places with a golden plate. Natives feed on snakes, which are hunted with sticks. Polygamy is accepted on the island, while the husband for infidelity can eat his wife. In the book, which was very popular, even the alphabet of the islanders was described. The book was published in three languages, and Psalmanazar soon began to give lectures on the history of the island. Even careful interrogation of George in the Royal Scientific Society did not reveal a lie. But the Jesuit missionary monks who actually visited Formosa, no one believed, because they used in England a bad reputation. This continued until 1706, when Psalmanazar declared that he was tired of pretending, and his whole story was one grandiose rally. The rest of his life the swindler spent translating Christian literature and writing his own memories, which were published after his death.

Joseph Wale

(1875-1976) was one of the most famous swindlers of the 20th century, he even wore the nickname King of Scammers. Even in his youth, he began the path to “glory”, fooling the half-blind farmers, selling them a wonderful gold-rimmed spectacles. The common people thought that they were cashing in on a young man, buying only $ 3-4 for an excellent thing, although it actually cost 15 cents. The most famous trick of Joseph was deception with the help of a fake bank. The swindler heard that the National Merchants Trade Bank moved to a new location. The empty house was leased and a fictitious bank was created in it to make one single deal. Weil hired a whole group of small scammers who depicted the usual inhabitants of the bank. There were queues at the box office, the operators worked with money, the doors were guarded, clerks scurried back and forth with papers. Wayne’s assistant, meanwhile, processed a local millionaire, who was informed that the owner of the bank was ready to sell land for a quarter of their price. But since the transaction is extremely secret, you should pay in cash. Believing in the legend, the client brought with him a suitcase with half a million dollars. From the station he was taken by a chic car and brought to the bank, where life was literally boiling. To wait for the meeting with the owner it took about an hour, all this time the client was playing the work of a prosperous institution, the clerks kept talking on the phone that it was necessary to strengthen the security, and there was nowhere to add money. A listless and tired banker met the buyer, obviously unwilling to make a deal. However, soon he let himself be persuaded and sold land for 400 thousand. The happy buyer was glad that he saved as much as 100 thousand, scammers would obviously try to take everything. Among the known victims of Whale, Benito Mussolini himself came to whom Joseph came under the guise of a mining engineer and sold the right to develop deposits in Colorado. When the intelligence services discovered the fraud, Whal managed to escape with two million dollars. Money for the swindler did not last long – he led a rich life and loved women. In addition, every time, getting into prison, the swindler gave all his property to his brother, the bailiff. The life of Joseph Whale was rich in adventure, and he lived 101 years!

Carlo Ponzi

(1882-1949) became famous as the creator of his own scheme of fraud, which is often associated with the financial pyramids that appeared in our abundance at the end of the last century.Having come to America in 1896, by 1920 Carlo became a celebrity on both sides of the Atlantic. Initially, the young man did not have a penny in his pocket, he changed many specialties, until he became a clerk in a Canadian bank in 1908. There he lured customers with high interest, paying them out of the following deposits. The bank, of course, soon burst, Ponzi served two years in prison. Then again fraud with forgery of documents, again prison … But getting married at 35 years old, Carlo got useful connections in emigrant circles and some small starting capital. Then he found the next field for action. At that time, there was a Postal Agreement, which implied the exchange of postal coupons for stamps in 60 countries at a single rate. However, the crisis and the world war led to a difference in exchange rates, so a coupon could be bought in Europe per cent and sold in the States for 6. On 26 December 1919 Ponzi registered his SEC firm that had branches in the US and Europe and repaid debt receipts with a yield of 50%, and then 100% in 90 days. Curious it was explained that the company is engaged in super-profitable postal operations, which is the secret. The opening of the company caused a real boom, its offices were literally piled up in dollars, a day came to a million. An interesting scheme was used – there were many cash desks for investing money, but for issuance – only a couple, they were constantly crowded with queues, and on the way back there was an opportunity to invest again. The authorities’ checks did not bring any results, moreover, when the company was temporarily covered up and panic began, Ponzi paid every cent, being a hero who suffered from the authorities. However, it served as a snowflake, which starts an avalanche. Ponzi became interesting to journalists who unearthed his past and prison terms. On August 13, 2009, Carlo was arrested. It turned out that the victims of the fraud were 40 million depositors, the total amount of lost deposits was 15 million. A lot of court sessions led to the bankruptcy of several more companies and banks. Ponzi himself stayed 11 months, moved to Florida, where he stayed for another three years for land fraud. Then there was Italy, where the duce had soon abandoned his services. Mussolini sent Carlo to Brazil, but also there the company under his command waited for bankruptcy. Died Ponzi in poverty in Rio de Janeiro, and his scheme is so fond of scams that under one form or another is used and still.



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