Ever wondered where does con in ‘con artist’ come from? If you know, whatcha doin’ here, smartass? In case you don’t, the term con is short for confidence. Undoubtedly, confidence does the trick for the professionals pretty well. But there are a few who took the game to a whole new insane level and I bet will leave you scratching your head. Don’t believe me? Check this out.
George Parker was one of the most audacious con men in American history. In the 1920’s Parker attempted to sell a few of New York’s most iconic landmarks and succeeded! His list of sales included Madison Square Garden, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Grant’s Tomb, and the Statue of Liberty. But his favourite was Brooklyn Bridge which he sold twice a week for several years. He even set up a fake “office” to handle his real estate swindles. He even produced impressive forged documents to prove that he was the legal owner of whatever property he was selling. When you do it, do it like a pro!
He made a millions before his not-so-legal sale and purchase business came to an end on 17th December 1928 when he was sentenced to a life term at Sing Sing prison.
There are con men, and then, there are consultants to con men. Next in the list happens to be the later one. Shalom Weiss of Brooklyn was responsible for the biggest insurance company collapse due to fraud in history. The former businessman assembled a dream team of con men comprising of several other business owners and an army of lawyers. He then bought National Heritage Insurance Company and fleeced it for its entire worth. How much? $450 Million! Shalom Weiss was sentenced to a staggering 845 years, the longest sentence ever for a white-collar crime. But Weiss didn’t stick around to take his punishment. He became a fugitive.
Frank William Abagnale, Jr.
This member on the list certainly has a one of its kind story. Frank W. Abagnale proved to be a prodigy of a con man by starting a little early and posing as a pilot for Pan Am Airlines in order to catch free flights all over the world at the age of just 16. He later pretended to be a doctor, then an attorney and six other identities in addition to these. Meanwhile having mastered the forgery of checks he cheated banks millions of dollars. He was finally arrested at age of 21 for five years after which he actually started *wait for it* working for the FBI as a security consultant.
That’s how you get a movie named ‘Catch me if you can’ on your story. Apt title though.
Have you seen the movie ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’? Know this guy? I know what you’re thinking and Bingo for that! Well, becoming a wealthy stock broker wasn’t happening fast enough for Jordan Belfort aka The wolf so he started his own Investment Company known as Stratton Oakmont. He bought extremely low stocks and sold them for at least double the price to not so savvy investors. He had already sold stocks over a billion dollars by the time it broke out. He served 22 months of a 4 year sentence. He was ordered to pay more than $110 Million to the victims. He wrote a memoir which was adapted into a film. The man has certainly got a cleaner image over the time and is now known as a motivational speaker.
In May of 1925, Lustig travelled to Paris with Dapper Dan Collins, another confidence man. While reading the newspaper one afternoon, he came across an article on how badly country’s economy was affected by the impact of World War 1 and that Eiffel Tower was in need of repairs which Paris could no longer afford. Others said what was really needed was, to tear down the 985 foot structure. Ding! Victor created fake government credentials and invited six scrap metal dealers to discuss a so-called government order, which was actually show time for the man. He explained the city was getting rid of the tower and was able to sell it to a scrap metal dealer André Poisson that too with getting a handsome amount as bribe amounting to over $ 70,000. The most interesting part of the story was that he could get away with this con because Poisson was too humiliated to notify the police. Victor not only sold the same thing once but he did it again and got away with it even for the second time. Like a boss! With forty-five known aliases, the mastery of five different languages, and nearly fifty arrests in the United States alone, Lustig could swindle even the brightest of marks.
Hey, by the way, is anyone interested in buying Taj Mahal? I’ve got a very nice broker, a certain Mr. Natwarlal. He can get you a very good deal!
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