4 Famous Con Men: Too Smart for Their Own Good
Most people have a strange fondness for famous con men. When we hear a story about a con man that has mastered the art of taking advantage of one sucker after another, it’s hard not to shake our heads in amazement and let loose a chuckle. It’s easy to view con artists as lovable characters as long as it’s not our money that they’re stealing. Consider the following brief biographies of several famous con men:
1) George Parker
The next time someone offers to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge, take a moment to remember George Parker. Parker is believed to have sold the bridge at least twice a week over several years. New York City police had to intervene on more than one occasion as misled investors attempted to erect toll booths at either end of their newly purchased property. Parker used expertly forged documents and a good deal of charm to make a more than adequate living. He also sold Madison Square Garden, the Statue of Liberty and Grant’s Tomb. Parker died in Sing Sing prison while serving a life sentence for fraud.
2) Victor Lustig
Victor Lustig, who divided his time between Paris and New York, is best known for selling the Eiffel Tower. Among his many scams was the sale of a 100 dollar bill printing device. He convinced his customers that the device could print a 100 dollar bill every six hours. Lustig stocked the printer with two 100 dollar bills, but he charged his customers $30,000 for the fraudulent device. Lustig was eventually convicted of counterfeiting. He spent time at Alcatraz and eventually died in a Missouri jail.
3) Frank Abagnale
Frank Abagnale is best remembered as a talented check fraud specialist. He even printed up fake deposit slips with his account number on them so that bank customers could unknowingly deposit their funds in his account. He was also a talented imposter who masqueraded as a Pan Am Pilot in order to obtain free air travel.
Abagnale also posed as an attorney and a medical supervisor. It is believed that he passed bad checks totaling nearly three million dollars. After serving time in several prisons, he was offered his freedom by the U.S. government in exchange for sharing his vast knowledge about fraud crimes.
4) Eduardo de Valfierno
Eduardo de Valfierno was an Argentine con man. He is reputed to have organized an elaborate plot to steal the famous Mona Lisa painting from the Louvre. The painting was in fact stolen with the assistance of a Louvre employee in 1911. Valfierno, who had previously commissioned the painting of six copies of the Mona Lisa, went into action. He sold the six fraudulent Mona Lisa’s while never even taking possession of the stolen masterpiece. Eventually, the Louvre employee that stole the painting on Valfierno’s behalf was caught and the real Mona Lisa was returned to the Louvre in 1913.