Top 10 Famous Con Artists

Apr 14th, 2010
This is a list of some of the most famous con artists in the world. It is truly amazing that they actually were able to accomplish these crimes. I hope you like the list.

10. Bernard Cornfeld

Bernard "Bernie" Cornfeld (Istanbul, 17 August 1927 – London, 27 February 1995) was a prominent businessman and international financier who sold investments in US mutual funds, and was tried and acquitted for orchestrating one of the most lucrative confidence games of his era. A group of 300 IOS employees complained to the Swiss authorities that Cornfeld and his co-founders pocketed part of the proceeds of a share issue raised among employees in 1969. Consequently he was charged with fraud in 1973 by the Swiss authorities. When Cornfeld visited Geneva, Swiss authorities arrested him. He served 11 months in a Swiss jail before being freed on a bail surety of US$600,000. Cornfeld always maintained his innocence, blaming the fraud on other IOS executives. His trial did not take place until 1979 and lasted three weeks, with Judge Pierre Fournier finally acquitting Cornfeld. -Wikipedia.org

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9. Robert Hendy-Freegard

Robert Hendy-Freegard (born Robert Freegard, March 1, 1971) is a British barman, car salesman, conman and impostor who masqueraded as an MI5 agent and fooled several people to go underground for fear of IRA assassination. He was born in Hodthorpe, a small village near Whitwell, in Derbyshire. Hendy-Freegard met his victims on social occasions or as customers in the pub or car dealership where he was working. He would reveal his "role" as an undercover agent for MI5, Special Branch or Scotland Yard working against the IRA. He would win them over, ask for money and make them do his bidding. He demanded that they cut off contact with family and friends, go through "loyalty tests" and live alone in poor conditions. He seduced five women, claiming that he wanted to marry them. Initially some of the victims refused to cooperate with the police because he had warned them that police would be double agents or MI5 agents performing another "loyalty test".  A television documentary called "The Spy who stole my Life" was shown by Channel Five on September 7, 2005. In Australia, this was called "The spy who conned me". -Wikipedia.org

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8. James Hogue

James Arthur Hogue (born October 22, 1959) is a US impostor who most famously entered Princeton University by posing as a self-taught orphan. He next enrolled at Princeton University in 1988 using the alias Alexi Indris Santana, a self-taught orphan from Utah. He deferred admission for one year because he had been convicted of the theft of bicycle frames in Utah. Hogue claimed in his application materials that he had slept outside in the Grand Canyon, raising sheep and reading philosophers. He violated his parole to enter class. For the next two years he lived as Santana; at Princeton, he was a member of the track team and was admitted into the Ivy Club. His real identity was exposed when Renee Pacheco, a student from Palo Alto High School, recognized him. He was arrested in 1991 for defrauding the university for $30,000 in financial aid and sentenced to three years in jail with 5 years probation and 100 hours of community service.  Hogue next made headlines on May 16, 1993, through his association with Harvard University. Having lied about his identity again, he was able to take a job as a security guard in one of Harvard's on-campus museums. A few months into his tenure, museum officials noticed that several gemstones on exhibit had been replaced with inexpensive fakes. Somerville police seized Hogue in his home and charged him with grand larceny in the amount of $50,000. -Wikipedia.org

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7. Eduardo de Valfierno


Eduardo de Valfierno, who referred to himself as Marqués (marquis), was an Argentine con man who allegedly masterminded the theft of the Mona Lisa. Valfierno paid several men to steal the work of art from the Louvre, including museum employee Vincenzo Peruggia. On August 21, 1911 Peruggia hid the Mona Lisa under his coat and simply walked out the door.  Before the heist took place, Valfierno commissioned French art restorer and forger Yves Chaudron to make six copies of the Mona Lisa. The forgeries were then shipped to various parts of the world, readying them for the buyers he had lined up. Valfierno knew once the Mona Lisa was stolen it would be harder to smuggle copies past customs. After the heist the copies were delivered to their buyers, each thinking they had the original which had just been stolen for them. Because Valfierno just wanted to sell forgeries, he only needed the original Mona Lisa to disappear and never contacted Peruggia again after the crime. Eventually Peruggia was caught trying to sell the painting and it was returned to the Louvre in 1913. -Wikipedia.org

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6. Soapy Smith

Jefferson Randolph "Soapy" Smith II (November 2, 1860 – July 8, 1898) was an American con artist and gangster who had a major hand in the organized criminal operations of Denver, Colorado, Creede, Colorado, and Skagway, Alaska, from 1879 to 1898. He is perhaps the most famous confidence man of the old west. In 1879 Smith moved to Denver and began to build the first of his empires. Con men normally moved around to keep out of jail, but as Smith's power and gang grew, so did his influence at City Hall, allowing him to remain. By 1887 he was reputedly involved with most of the criminal bunko activities in the city. Newspapers in Denver reported that he controlled the city's criminals, underworld gambling and accused corrupt politicians and the police chief of receiving his graft. -Wikipedia.org

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5. George Parker

George Parker (1870 – 1936) was one of the most audacious con men in American history. He made his living selling New York's public landmarks to unwary tourists. His favorite object for sale was the Brooklyn Bridge, which he sold twice a week for years. He convinced his marks that they could make a fortune by controlling access to the roadway. More than once police had to roust naive buyers from the bridge as they tried to erect toll barriers.  Other public landmarks he sold included the original Madison Square Garden, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Grant's Tomb and the Statue of Liberty. George had many different methods for making his sales. When he sold Grant's Tomb, he would often pose as the general's grandson. He even set up a fake "office" to handle his real estate swindles. He produced impressive forged documents to prove that he was the legal owner of whatever property he was selling. -Wikipedia.org

4. Victor Lustig

Victor Lustig (January 4, 1890 – March 11, 1947)[citation needed] was a con artist who undertook scams in various countries and became best known as "the man who sold the Eiffel Tower. Twice." One of Lustig's trademark cons involved a "money-printing machine". He would demonstrate the capability of the small box to clients, all the while lamenting that it took the device six hours to copy a $100 bill. The client, sensing huge profits, would buy the machines for a high price, usually over $30,000. Over the next twelve hours, the machine would produce two more $100 bills. After that, it produced only blank paper, as its supply of $100 bills became exhausted. By the time the clients realized that they had been scammed, Lustig was long gone. -Wikipedia.org

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3. Joseph Weil

Joseph "Yellow Kid" Weil (July 1, 1875—February 26, 1976) was one of the most famous American confidence men of his era. Weil's biographer, W. T. Brannon, believed Weil had an "uncanny knowledge of human nature." Over the course of his career, Weil is said to have stolen over eight million dollars. The nickname "Yellow Kid" first was applied in 1903 and came from the comic "Hogan's Alley and the Yellow Kid." After working for some time with a grifter named Frank Hogan, Chicago alderman "Bathhouse John" Coughlin associated the pair with the comic: Hogan was Hogan, and Weil became the Yellow Kid. "There have been many erroneous stories published about how I acquired this cognomen," Weil writes in his biography. "It was said that it was due to my having worn yellow chamois gloves, yellow vests, yellow spats, and a yellow beard. All this was untrue. I had never affected such wearing apparel and I had no beard." -Wikipedia.org

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2. Charles Ponzi

Charles Ponzi (March 3, 1882 – January 18, 1949) was an Italian swindler, who is considered one of the greatest swindlers in American history. His aliases include Charles Ponei, Charles P. Bianchi, Carl and Carlo. The term "Ponzi scheme" is a widely known description of any scam that pays early investors returns from the investments of later investors. He promised clients a 50% profit within 45 days, or 100% profit within 90 days, by buying discounted postal reply coupons in other countries and redeeming them at face value in the United States as a form of arbitrage. Ponzi was probably inspired by the scheme of William F. Miller, a Brooklyn bookkeeper who in 1899 used the same scheme to take in $1 million. -Wikipedia.org

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1. Frank Abagnale

Frank William Abagnale, Jr. (born April 27, 1948) is an American security consultant best known for his history as a former confidence trickster, check forger, skilled impostor and escape artist. He became notorious in the 1960s for successfully passing US$2.5 million worth of meticulously forged checks across 26 countries over the course of five years, starting when he was only 17 years old. In the process, he claimed to have assumed no fewer than eight separate identities, successfully impersonated an airline pilot, a doctor, a prison inspector and a lawyer. He escaped from police custody twice (once from a taxiing airliner and once from a US federal penitentiary), all before he was 21 years old. Abagnale's life story provided the inspiration for the feature film Catch Me If You Can, based on his ghostwritten autobiography of the same name. He is currently a consultant and lecturer at the academy and field offices for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He also runs Abagnale & Associates, a financial fraud consultancy company. -Wikipedia.org


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