25 Interesting Con Artists Who Were Just Too Good

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1 Harold von Braunhut

Harold von Braunhut

A con artist named Harold von Braunhut, the inventor of the Sea Monkeys, also invented the Invisible Goldfish, marketing it with “You will never see the goldfish”. Customers who bought it would receive an empty fish bowl and fish food.

2. An ex-con named Henry Terry passed himself off as a police officer for years, equipped with a fake uniform, fake police car, and even his own “police station”: an office where he kept criminal files and interrogated suspects.

3. A con man named Foutanga Dit Babani Sissoko from Mali stole $242 million from a Dubai bank, by convincing the bank manager that he could double money using black magic.

4. A con man named George C. Parker would sell the Brooklyn bridge to tourists twice a week which gave rise to the saying “If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you.”

5. A con woman named Nomatter Tagarira convinced Zimbabwean Prime Minister Robert Mugabe and his cabinet that she could tap a rock and produce diesel fuel. She then sent his cabinet members on a wild goose chase which lasted 13 days.

6 Eleanor Fletcher Bishop

Eleanor Fletcher Bishop

A 19th century con woman named Eleanor Fletcher Bishop convinced everyone she was a Russian Princess and willed Houdini her fortune.

7. An Indian con man named Natwarlal repeatedly “sold” the Taj Mahal and Parliament House of India along with its 545 sitting members. He was sentenced to 113 years in prison, but he made daring escapes from different jails eight times in his life.

8. Lou Pearlman, the con-man behind one of the largest Ponzi schemes in US history, defrauding investors out of more than 300 million dollars, was also the mastermind and impresario for N’Sync and the Backstreet Boys. He is also Art Garfunkel’s cousin.

9. In 1935, a con man named Victor Lustig was arrested for selling his victims a “currency copier”, purportedly capable of reproducing $100 bills. The day before his trial, he fashioned sheets into a rope and slipped out the window, pretending to be a window washer as he shimmied down the building. Victor Lustig swindled everyone from respectable bankers to Al Capone himself. He even succeeded in selling the Eiffel Tower for scrap, not once but twice. He used 24 aliases, spoke 5 languages and had been arrested 46 times but never convicted.

10. Albert Johnson Walker is a Canadian con-artist who is serving a prison term for embezzlement and murder. Walker convinced a co-worker to swap identities before murdering him with an anchor and tossing him from a boat. Police identified the victim by his Rolex, which also recorded the time of death.

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11 Wilhelm Voigt

Wilhelm Voigt

A con artist named Wilhelm Voigt once dressed up as a Prussian army captain and ordered several soldiers to follow him. Together they arrested the mayor and plundered the entire city treasury. He wasn’t arrested until more than a week later, and the Kaiser later pardoned him.

12. General Gregor MacGregor was a Scottish conman who ran the “Poyais Scheme,” in which he convinced the entirety of the UK that he was the head of the (non-existent) paradise-like Kingdom of Poyais, going so far as to write a constitution for Poyais and establish several Poyais embassies in the UK.

13. A reformed con man named Frank Abagnale successfully impersonated a doctor, airline pilot, lawyer, and teaching assistant during his career as a con artist.

14. In the 19th century, a con artist named Bertha Heyman conned money out of men by pretending to be a wealthy woman who was unable to access her fortune.

15. A 23-year-old French con artist named Frédéric Bourdin impersonated and assumed the identity of a 16-year-old missing Texas boy, living with the boy’s family for months, despite retaining his French accent and having different colored eyes from the missing teen.

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16 Han van Meegeren

Han van Meegeren

Han van Meegeren, a Dutch painter, Master artist, and con-artist forged paintings in the style of Johannes Vermeer, fooling curators for years. Despite his crimes, he is celebrated now as a World War 2 hero for selling counterfeit artwork to Nazi Reichsmarschall Hermann Göring.

17. In 1806, a con artist named Mary Bateman inscribed “Crist is coming” on chicken eggs before shoving them back up into the chicken. She charged a penny to witness the eggs being laid. Later, Bateman was executed for murder and strips of her skin were sold as charms to ward off evil spirits.

18. Oskar Daubmann was a con man who convinced people that he was the last POW from World War 1. The parents of the real Oskar Daubmann accepted the impostor as their son, despite his different eye color and lack of known facial scar.

19. Arthur Furguson was a Scottish con man who “sold” a number of monuments to tourists. In the 1920s, he sold monuments such as Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square (for the sum of £6,000), Big Ben (£1,000 for a down payment), and Buckingham Palace (£2,000 for a down payment) to American tourists. After he immigrated to the US in 1925, he managed to sell the White House to a rancher on the installment plan for yearly payments of $100,000 and tried to sell the Statue of Liberty to a visiting Australian, who went to the police.

20. In the 1920s, a man went to see a con doctor John Romulus Brinkley for impotence and the doctor joked that surgically inserting goat testicles into his own would cure him. The man begged him to do it and the “surgery” soon became wildly popular, netting Brinkley $750 per operation.

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21 Douglas Berneville-Claye

Douglas Berneville-Claye

Douglas Berneville-Claye was a con-man who in World War 2 managed to serve in both the British SAS and the Nazi SS.

22. In the 90s, a con man named Alan Conway in London impersonated Stanley Kubrick so much so that he came to believe he was Kubrick.

23. In 2015, two Spanish conmen sold a fake painting for €1.5 million, only to find out that all the money they received was also counterfeit.

24. In the late 1990s a convicted con artist and fugitive named David Kim Stanley—under the alias “Michael Fenne”—raised more than $28 million for a proposed 1,000-channel internet broadcasting company called Pixelon that never developed software to stream video.

25. Carlos “Kaiser” Raposo is a former Brazilian “soccer player”, who managed to con his way to a career that lasted 20 years despite never actually playing a game.

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