Con Men

56 articles
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A woman takes a job as a typist for a Southern con man.

"Nor did he notice that her bag was packed and sitting at her feet where she waited by the window, twisting the curtains in her hands. But then, Cal has no reason to notice these things. He is not her lover, not really her friend. Just a man who pays her to take notes, a man she has known only a few months, a drunk, a liar, and when he suggested this outing, when he asked her if she’d like to take a break from her note-taking, have some fun, she should have known better."

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Badfinger’s ill-fated attempt at a comeback, as orchestrated by a Milwaukee con man.

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On a cruise with Syvlia Browne, the controversial psychic famous for telling distraught parents where their missing children are.

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The gamblers and teenage cons who haunted New York City’s 60s-era all night bowling alleys.

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At various points, Thomas Mitchell was a novelist, an attorney, a scientist, a Hollywood dealmaker and a CIA higher-up. He was also a con man.

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A jailhouse interview with Steve Washak, who made millions selling “natural male enhancement” pills.

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The rise and fall of Lisette Lee, the self-proclaimed “Korean Paris Hilton,” who was busted for drug trafficking.

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Darren Lumar lived in mansions he didn’t own, ran companies that didn’t make a dime, went to colleges that didn’t exist and slept with “any number of women” despite being married to James Brown’s daughter. When he was murdered, the cops had a problem: too many possible suspects.

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Adam Wheeler lied on his college application. Lawrence Summers facilitated the destruction of the global economy.

Only one of these Harvard men was given jail time.

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How the author became tangled up with an international con man who may or may not have murdered several people.

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John MacNeil was convicted by the state of Massachusetts of second-degree murder. He was given a life sentence. He escaped. He was caught. Through an incredible feat of jailhouse lawyering, he somehow got himself paroled and exiled to Canada. Then he came home.

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A 21-year-old’s audacious real estate scam and subsequent escape.

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How a convicted sexual predator emptied the bank accounts and ruined the lives of several women from behind bars.

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The world of high-end wine gets conned.

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He has worked for Apple, Google, AOL, the Rainbow Room. He hangs out with Steve Case, Gordon Ramsey, Tim Armstrong. He's a world-class surfer, a AAA baseball legend, the founder of a seminal punk band. He's one of the more persistent and obsessive grifters to ply the streets of New York City—not to mention online dating sites—in recent decades.
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How the U.S. government used a serial con who was caught running a mail-order steroid pharmacy in Mexico to prove that Google was knowingly placing ads for illegal drugs.

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Con man turned pastor turned con man; a profile of a serial scammer and the movie he tried to make about himself.

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How the town of Moberly, population 14,000, got conned.

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An investigative reporter goes undercover at a dealership to learn the tricks of the trade, of which there are many.

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A charismatic entrepreneur, an ex-con turned devout Christian, and the politicians who championed them.

The story of a $36 billion Ponzi scheme in Minnesota.

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How an Italian thug looted MGM, brought Credit Lyonnais to its knees, and made the Pope cry.
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She was the biggest tipper the waiters at some of the country’s most gourmet restaurants had ever seen. She treated casual acquaintances to elaborate vacations. Few saw the tiny bungalow where she lived amongst hundreds of boxes of unopened jewelry, and none knew the source of her wealth. When her multi-decade embezzlement scheme was revealed, the artisans and waitstaff whose lives had been changed by her generosity were left to sort out the pieces and consider their own relationship to her scam.

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On William H. McMasters, who ten days after being hired as Charles Ponzi’s publicist wrote a scathing exposé in The Boston Post that revealed the biggest fraud, at the time, in American history.

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The story of Asa Earl Carter, aka Forrest Carter, the best-selling author of The Education of Little Tree, an autobiographical novel about “communion with nature and love of one’s fellow man.” He was also a Klansman, penning the famous George Wallace line, “Segregation now! Segregation tomorrow! Segregation forever!”

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Behind a financial fraud lay a secret plan to create a “mothership for con artists worldwide”:

Gamboa's tale involves secret ore deposits, hidden stocks of Soviet nuclear armaments, the Queen Mary ocean liner, portions of Antarctica, a new version of the Bible, allegations of fake deaths and miraculous resurrections, and a collection of some of the most colorful aliases ever to grace America's criminal and civil case dockets. (According to court documents, Korem also answers to the names Tzemach Ben David Netzer Korem and Branch Vinedresser.)

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On the ground in Nigeria with the nation’s notorious scam artists, who share a remarkable number of qualities with America’s top entrepreneurs.

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The anatomy of a bungled, massively expensive undercover sting conducted by the Seattle Police Department.

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How a 22-year-old with five warrants for her arrest in Utah conned her way through Brooklyn armed with nothing more than a dirty mouth and a penchant for faking pregnancy and/or cancer.

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How pop-up tax preparers make billions off the poor.

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The story of $220M in bailout money.

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A private investigator asks a magazine to write a puff piece on his business. The journalist finds a real story.

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In the 1880’s, a shabbily dressed man popped up in numerous America cities, calling upon local scientists, showing letters of introduction claiming he was a noted geologist or paleontologist, discussing both fields at a staggeringly accomplished level, and then making off with valuable books or cash loans.

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One of the most valuable cars in the world crashes going 200 mph on the Pacific Coast Highway. Its owner claims to be an anti-terrorism officer. In fact, he’s a former executive at a failed software company—and a career criminal. The unraveling of an epic con.

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One part rapist, one part con-man; the story of the seemingly unconvictable Hy Doan.

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“One evening, my home phone rang. ‘You have a collect call from Bernard Madoff, an inmate at a federal prison,’ a recording announced. And there he was.”

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Henry Heimlich saved untold choking victimes when he invented his maneuver in 1974. Since then, he’s searched in vain for another miracle treatment—pushing ethical boundaries along the way. Now at the end of his career, Heimlich has hired an investigator to find an anonymous critic working full-time to destroy his legacy.

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“The entire system set up to monitor and regulate Wall Street is fucked up. Just ask the people who tried to do the right thing.”

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How a Nigerian-American conned upwards of $40 million from banks during the housing boom using publicly available information from the internet, persuasive storytelling, and prepaid cellphones, and then ditched his FBI tail in a casino.

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A trip to Râmnicu Vâlcea, a town of 120,000 where the primary (and lucrative) industry is Internet scams.

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Searching for (and easily finding) Mark Augustus Landis, the man behind the “longest, strangest forgery spree the American art world has known.”

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He called himself “TheNoseDoctor” and performed sinus surgeries, many of them unnecessary, at a maniacal clip. When the whole thing fell apart, he left behind his yacht and family, and disappeared into the Alps.

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“My father didn’t believe in things that were a reminder of the past because he had never had things in the past, and, more important, he had never had a past—not a past that mattered, that should be passed on to me, his son.”

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A lifetime worth of little scams adds up.

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How an aging trio of Irish ‘travelers’ criss-crossed America in a mobile home conning Home Depot out of over $1 million.

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Alan Young has been running the same scam for years; posing as a member of the Temptations and smooth-talking his way into luxury hotel rooms and prostitutes. Despite his clear charm, he admits he has “no skills other than being a con man.”

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How a London con man turned a struggling painter into a master forger, sold more than 200 fakes, and exposed the art industry as its own worst enemy.

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Raffaello Follieri was young, handsome. He was Italian. He was dating Anne Hathaway, hobnobbing with Bill Clinton, and using contacts at the Vatican to launch a lucrative business in the States. Then he was in jail.

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Albert Talton started with some recycled newsprint and a cheap printer from Staples. By the end, he’d put more than $7 million into circulation.

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Two sisters, heirs to the Bronfman fortune, may have blown $100 million supporting the cult-like group NXIVM.

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How a card-counting former meteorologist from Las Vegas made the first perfect Showcase bid in the 38-year history of The Price Is Right.

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When Clark Rockefeller snatched his daughter during a custody dispute, what the D.A. called “the longest con I’ve seen in my professional career” came unraveled, and the trail led to bones buried in a California backyard.

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Helg Sgarbi had perfected the art of seducing, swindling, and blackmailing ultra-rich women across Europe. Fleecing a billionaire BMW heiress should have been the crowning achievement of his career.

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The Spanish police believed he was a missing American teen. So, seemingly, did the Texas family who had lost him three years prior. But he was an adult Frenchman. And he had done it before.