List of con artists

This is a list of notable individuals who exploited confidence tricks.

Born or active in the 17th centuryEdit

Born or active in the 18th centuryEdit

Born or active in the 19th centuryEdit

  • William Rockefeller Sr. (1810 - 1906): an American businessman, lumberman, herbalist, salesman, and con-artist.[4] Two of his sons were Standard Oil co-founders John Davison Rockefeller Sr. and William Avery Rockefeller Jr.
  • George Appo (1856-1930): American fraudster, operated in New York and was involved in green goods scams. Wrote an autobiography and also had a biography written about him which discusses prison conditions and various other socio-economic conditions in the later 19th century.
  • Lou Blonger (1849–1924): American pickpocket and fraudster, organized a massive ring of con men in Denver in the early 1900s.[5]
  • C. L. Blood (1835–1908): American patent medicine huckster, fraudster, and blackmailer.[6]
  • Amy Bock (1859–1943): Tasmanian-born New Zealand con artist who committed numerous petty scams and frauds, and in 1909 impersonated a man in order to marry a wealthy woman.
  • Cassie Chadwick (1857–1907): Canadian woman who defrauded banks out of millions by pretending to be the illegitimate daughter (and heir) of Andrew Carnegie[7]
  • Eduardo de Valfierno (1850–1931): Argentine con man who posed as a marqués and allegedly masterminded the theft of the Mona Lisa in 1911.
  • Lord Gordon Gordon (1840 – 1874): British man who defrauded $1 million from Jay Gould, who was fighting for control of the Erie Railroad.
  • Bertha Heyman (born c. 1851): American con artist, also known as "Big Bertha"; active in the United States in the late 19th century.[8][9]
  • Canada Bill Jones (c.1837–1880): King of the three-card monte men[5]
  • John E.W. Keely (1837-1898): American grifter.
  • David Lamar (1877-1934): American con artist known as "The Wolf of Wall Street".
  • Daniel Levey (c. 1875-?): American swindler and gambler, specialized in passing fake checks and stealing goods under the pretense of brokering sales for their owners.
  • Victor Lustig (1890–1947): Born in Bohemia (today's Czech Republic) and known as "the man who sold the Eiffel Tower twice".[10]
  • William McCloundy (1859–19??): American con artist, convicted of selling the Brooklyn Bridge to a tourist.
  • Phillip Musica (1877–1938): Italian fraudster known for tax and securities frauds culminating in the McKesson & Robbins scandal (1938).
  • George C. Parker (1860–1936): American con man who sold New York monuments to tourists, including most famously the Brooklyn Bridge, which he sold twice a week for years. The saying "I'll sell you the Brookly Bridge" originated from this con. [11]
  • Charles Ponzi (1882–1949): Italian swindler and con artist; "Ponzi scheme" is a type of fraud named after him.[12]
  • Soapy Smith (1860–1898): American con artist and gangster in Denver and Creede, Colorado, and Skagway, Alaska, in the 1880s and 1890s[13]
  • Adele Spitzeder (1832-1895): German actress that arguably was the first to perpetrate a Ponzi scheme between 1869 and 1872 when she defrauded thousands of people by promising them 10% return of interest monthly which she paid with the money of new investors.
  • William Thompson (fl. 1840–1849): American criminal whose deceptions caused the term confidence man to be coined.[14]
  • Ferdinand Ward (1851–1925): American swindler whose victims included Thomas Nast and the former U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant.[15]
  • Joseph Weil (1875–1976): American con man.[16]
  • Fernando Wood (1812-1881): U.S. Congressman, Mayor of New York City, and a con artist who defrauded his brother-in-law and three others of $20,000 in a scheme involving the charter of a ship to sell goods during the California Gold Rush.[17]

Born or active in the 20th centuryEdit

  • Archibald Stansfeld Belaney a.k.a. Grey Owl (1888–1938), a British-born conservationist, fur trapper, and writer impersonated a Native American man.
  • Alan Conway (1934–1998): American con man best known for impersonating film director Stanley Kubrick.
  • Bernie Cornfeld (1927–1995): Ran the Investors Overseas Service, alleged to be a Ponzi scheme.[18]
  • Ferdinand Waldo Demara (1921–1982): Famed as "the Great Imposter".
  • David Hampton (1964–2003): American actor and impostor who posed as Sidney Poitier's son "David" in 1983, which inspired a play and a film, Six Degrees of Separation.
  • Susanna Mildred Hill: perpetrator of the “lonely hearts scam”.
  • Harry Jelinek (1905–1986): Czech con artist alleged to have sold the Karlstejn Castle to American industrialists.
  • Sante Kimes (1934–2014): Convicted of fraud, robbery, murder, and over 100 other crimes along with her son Kenneth Kimes, Jr.[19]
  • David Lamar (1877-1934) a.k.a. "The Wolf of Wall Street".
  • Edgar Laplante (?–1944): Claimed to be "Chief White Elk." Stole from aristocratic European women and gave away large quantities of the money in cash. Presented to Mussolini as a visiting foreign dignitary.[20][21][22]
  • Don Lapre (1964–2011): American TV pitchman known for peddling various get-rich-quick schemes.
  • Daniel Levey (c. 1875-?): American swindler and gambler, specialized in passing fake checks and stealing goods under the pretense of brokering sales for their owners.
  • Bernard Madoff (1938-2021): Former American stock broker and non-executive chairman of the NASDAQ stock market who admitted to the operation of the largest Ponzi scheme in history.[23]
  • Gaston Means (1879–1938): American con-man and associate of the Ohio Gang.
  • Natwarlal (1912–2009): Legendary Indian con man known for having repeatedly "sold" the Taj Mahal, the Red Fort, the Rashtrapati Bhavan and the Parliament House of India.[24]
  • Lou Pearlman (1954–2016): Former boy band impresario, convicted for perpetrating a large and long-running Ponzi scheme.[25]
  • Charles Ponzi (1882–1949): Italian American businessman and con artist.
  • Riley Shepard (1918-2009): Country musician who used numerous pseudonyms to break the terms of his recording contracts and defraud investors.[26]
  • Reed Slatkin (1949–2015): American investor and co-founder of EarthLink.
  • Jerry Tarbot (?–?): Claimed he was amnesic victim of World War I.
  • Alvin Clarence "Titanic Thompson" Thomas (1892–1974): Gambler, golf hustler, proposition bet conman.
  • Barton H. Watson (1960–2004): Former CEO of global technology company CyberNET who committed suicide after the FBI raided his offices. Watson was accused of stealing millions as a con man, but died before being arrested. Prior to CyberNET he embezzled funds from customers as an E.F. Hutton broker and embezzled funds from his former business partner in WS Services.
  • Alessandro Zarrelli (1984–2018): Italian amateur footballer who posed as a fictitious Italian Football Federation official and attempted to dupe clubs in the United Kingdom in to signing a supposed talented young professional player (himself) in a bid to earn a pro contract and kick start a career in the sport.[27]

Living peopleEdit

  • Frank Abagnale, Jr. (1948): U.S. check forger and impostor turned FBI consultant; his autobiography was made into the movie Catch Me If You Can.[28] Abagnale impersonated a PanAm pilot, a doctor, a lawyer, and a teacher to illegally make over $2.5 million[29]
  • Gilbert Chikli (1966): Impersonated French foreign defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian using silicone masks on video conference software to appeal to politicians and business executives for money. Fraudulently obtained €55 million.[30]
  • Sergio Cragnotti (1940): Former Italian industrialist and president of a football team who masterminded the Cirio bankruptcy
  • Ali Dia (1965): Senegalese semi-professional footballer, duped the manager of Premier League team Southampton into signing him after posing as World Player of The Year George Weah in a phone call in which he gave himself a fake reference[31]
  • Marc Dreier (1950): Founder of attorney firm Dreier LLP. Convicted of selling approximately $700 million worth of fictitious promissory notes, and other crimes[32]
  • Kevin Foster (1958/59): British investment fraudster, convicted of running a Ponzi scheme[33]
  • Anthony Gignac (1970): Falsely took on the identity of Saudi prince Khalid bin Al Saud to entrap victims in investment scams and other schemes, currently serving an 18-year jail sentence[34]
  • Randy Glass: Defrauded jewelry traders and became involved in the entrapment of undercover arms dealers[35]
  • Robert Hendy-Freegard (1971): Briton who kidnapped people by impersonating an MI5 agent and conned them out of money[36]
  • James Arthur Hogue (1959): U.S. impostor who most famously entered Princeton University by posing as a self-taught orphan[37]
  • Brian Kim (1975/76): Hedge fund manager who pleaded guilty to a Ponzi scheme, passport fraud, and other crimes[38][39]
  • Steven Kunes (1956): Former television screenwriter convicted for forgery, grand theft, and false use of financial information;[40] he attempted to sell a faked interview with J. D. Salinger to People magazine[41][42]
  • Rudy Kurniawan (wine connoisseur and collector) (b. 1976): Pulled off the biggest wine scam in history. Famously consigned several lots of Clos St. Denis from Domaine Ponsot from vintages long prior to any recorded production of Ponsot wines from that vineyard.
  • Anthony Lasarevitsch (1985): Impersonated French foreign defence minister Jean-Yves Le Drian using silicone masks on video conference software to appeal to politicians and business executives for money. Fraudulently obtained €55 million.[30]
  • Simon Leviev (1990): Known as the Tinder Swindler is an Israeli con artist who swindled more than $10 million from several women in Europe, Israel, United States etc., by pretending to be a son of a billionaire diamond magnate; inspired the Netflix documentary of The Tinder Swindler.[43]
  • Simon Lovell (1957): English comedy magician, card shark actor and con man
  • Jho Low (1981-?): Claimed to be a financial expert and trusted by Malaysian prime minister, Najib Razak, in managing 1MDB, a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund. He abused his position and stole billions of US dollars, causing Malaysia to end up in heavy debt and further devaluation of its currency.[44]
  • Gina Marks (1973): American "psychic" con artist[45]
  • Matt the Knife (1987): American-born con artist, card cheat and pickpocket who, from the ages of approximately 14 through 21, bilked dozens of casinos, corporations and at least one Mafia crime family[46][47][48]
  • Billy MacFarland (1991): Organizer of the Fyre Festival.
  • Barry Minkow (1967): Known for the ZZZZ Best scam[49]
  • Richard Allen Minsky (1944): Scammed female victims for sex by pretending to be jailed family members over the phone[50]
  • Jim Norman (musician) (1948): Used the ESPAVO Foundation and Thrum Records to defraud millions of dollars in a cross-border advance fee scam, and was eventually convicted of conspiracy to commit wire fraud[51]
  • Christophe Rocancourt (1967): French con artist who scammed affluent people by masquerading in turn as a French nobleman, the heir to the Rockefeller family or family member of a celebrity
  • Steven Jay Russell (1957): Georgia police officer who impersonated several individuals to escape from a Texas prison; embezzled from the North American Medical Management corporation; inspired the movie I Love You Phillip Morris[52]
  • Anna Sorokin (1991): Russian-born German con artist who pretended to be a wealthy German heiress under the name Anna Delvey. Inspired the Netflix limited series Inventing Anna.[53]
  • Ong Kean Swan (1982): Ran multi-level pyramid schemes in China, Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan; walked away with an estimated US$35 million[54]
  • Elizabeth Holmes (1984): CEO of Theranos. Convicted of criminal fraud in United States v. Elizabeth A. Holmes, et al. for defrauding investors. [55]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; Paul Hopkins and Stuart Handley, 'Chaloner, William (d. 1699)'
  2. ^ "Document of the Month January 2005". The Scottish Executive. January 2005. Retrieved 19 August 2007.
  3. ^ Haslip, Joan (1987). Marie Antoinette. New York, NY: Weidenfeld and Nicolson. ISBN 9781555841836.
  4. ^ Chernow, Ron (2007-12-18). Titan: The Life of John D. Rockefeller, Sr. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-307-42977-3.
  5. ^ a b Maurer, David W. (1940). The Big Con: The Story of the Confidence Man and the Confidence Game. Bobbs Merrill. OCLC 1446571.
  6. ^ "A Man of Ominous Name". The Inter Ocean. 1890-02-19. Retrieved 2015-10-26.
  7. ^ "Encyclopedia of Cleveland History: CHADWICK, CASSIE L." Retrieved 2017-05-09.
  8. ^ Byrnes, Thomas (1886), Professional Criminals of America, New York: Cassell & Company, pp. 200–201.
  9. ^ Jay, Ricky (February 2011), "Grifters, Bunco Artists & Flimflam Men", Wired, vol. 19, no. 2, p. 92.
  10. ^ Johnson, James F.; Miller, Floyd (1961). "The Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower". Doubleday. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  11. ^ Cohen, Gabriel (27 November 2005). "For You, Half Price". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 August 2007.
  12. ^ Zuckoff, Mitchell (March 8, 2005). Ponzi's Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend. Random House. ISBN 1-4000-6039-7.
  13. ^ Smith, Jeff (2009). Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel, Klondike Research. ISBN 0-9819743-0-9
  14. ^ "Arrest of the Confidence Man". New York Herald. 1849. Retrieved 19 August 2007.
  15. ^ "Son's Gems Claimed By Ferdinand Ward" (PDF). New York Times. 6 April 1909.
  16. ^ Weil, Joseph (1948). "Yellow Kid" Weil: The Autobiography of America's Master Swindler. Ziff-Davis. ISBN 0-7812-8661-1.
  17. ^ Allen, Oliver E. (1993). The Tiger: The Rise and Fall of Tammany Hall. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company. p. 63. ISBN 0-201-62463-X.
  18. ^ "The Fund Industry's Black Eye". Brian Trumbore, 2002-04-19. Retrieved 19 August 2007.
  19. ^ "Life Terms For Pair". The New York Times. 2005-03-22. Retrieved 2011-04-10.
  20. ^ Dirda, Michael (August 8, 2018). "Book Review : The most shameless con artist of the Jazz Age knew that the biggest lies work best". Washington Post. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
  21. ^ Willetts, Paul (August 8, 2018). "White Elk, Black Shirt by Paul Willetts". Powell's. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
  22. ^ "Con-man Edgar Laplante's Oregon connections discovered in new publication". Oregon Digital Newspaper Program. July 21, 2018. Retrieved 2018-08-14.
  23. ^ "Madoff Confessed $50 Billion Fraud Before FBI Arrest". Bloomberg. 2008-12-12. Retrieved 26 August 2010.
  24. ^ "Natwarlal leaves 'em guessing even in death". Hindustan Times. 29 July 2009. Archived from the original on April 19, 2012. Retrieved 3 August 2012.
  25. ^ Liston, Barbara (2008-05-21). "Boy band mogul Pearlman sentenced to 25 years". Reuters. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
  26. ^ "The Cowboy Philosopher: A Tale Of Obsession, Scams, And Family". National Public Radio: Hidden Brain. Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  27. ^ "Alert over Italian soccer 'star'". BBC News. 10 October 2005.
  28. ^ Frank W. Abagnale Jr.; Stan Redding (1980). Catch Me if You Can. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-64091-7.
  29. ^ Abagnale, Frank W. (2000). Catch me if you can : the amazing true story of the youngest and most daring con man in the history of fun and profit. Redding, Stan (1st Broadway books trade pbk. ed.). New York: Broadway Books. ISBN 0767905385. OCLC 43542209.
  30. ^ a b Agence France-Presse in Paris (March 11, 2020). "Gang impersonated Jean-Yves Le Drian, sometimes with lookalike mask, to dupe rich and famous". Retrieved March 12, 2020.
  31. ^ Gibbs, Thom (7 February 2011). "Five terrible debuts to make Fernando Torres feel better". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  32. ^ "N.Y. lawyer arraigned in alleged $700M fraud". March 19, 2009. Retrieved 2011-02-14.
  33. ^ "KF Concept £34 million Ponzi scheme organiser convicted". Serious Fraud Office. 9 March 2010. Archived from the original on 13 March 2010. Retrieved 7 July 2011.
  34. ^ "Fake Saudi prince Anthony Gignac jailed for $8m fraud". BBC News. BBC. BBC. 1 June 2019. Retrieved 6 August 2022.
  35. ^ Mintz, John (2002-08-02). "U.S. Reopens Arms Case In Probe for Taliban Role". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-08-16.
  36. ^ "Fake spy guilty of kidnapping con". BBC. 2005-06-23. Retrieved 19 August 2007.
  37. ^ "Princeton 'Student' Gets Jail Sentence". The New York Times. 1992-10-25. Retrieved 19 August 2007.
  38. ^ "Hedge Fund Founder Kim Gets Five to 15 Years for Scheme". Retrieved October 13, 2014.
  39. ^ "Ex-NY hedge fund head who fled admits $4M swindle". Crain's New York Business. March 16, 2012. Retrieved October 13, 2014.
  40. ^ Hayden, Tyler (31 March 2011). "A Tale Stranger Than Fiction". Santa Barbara Independent. Retrieved 4 August 2014.
  41. ^ Associated Press "Lawsuit by Salinger muzzles his imitator" Ottawa Citizen November 5, 1982, p. 65, col. 1
  42. ^ "J.D. Salinger in Accord On Impersonation Suit". The New York Times. 6 November 1982.
  43. ^ "Tinder Swindler". Verdens Gang. 2019-02-16. Retrieved 14 February 2022.
  44. ^ "Malaysia's 1 Trillion Ringgit Government Debt Explained". 2019-03-07. Retrieved 2019-03-09.
  45. ^ McAfee, David G. (11 February 2018). ""Psychic" Convicted of Stealing $340K from Her Clients, Blames Racism Against Gypsies". Patheos. Archived from the original on 13 March 2018. Retrieved 13 March 2018.
  46. ^ "American Voices". American Voices. October 12, 2008.
  47. ^ Schwartz, Dan (August 2007). "From Grifter To Guinness". Providence Monthly: 14.
  48. ^ Perry, Rachel (January 17, 2007). "Matt The Knife: Fire-Teething Never Looked So Good". Play (Philadelphia Edition): 10–12.
  49. ^ Leung, Rebecca (May 22, 2005). "It Takes One To Know One". 60 Minutes.
  50. ^ Gorman, Anna (2001-12-01). "Rapist in Sex Scam Case Sentenced to Life in Prison". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-06-27.
  51. ^ "Canadian Citizen Sentenced in Manhattan Federal Court to 20 Years in Prison in Connection with $7 Million Advance-Fee Fraud Scheme".
  52. ^ "Master Manipulator". Texas Observer. 2003-07-03. Retrieved 19 August 2007.
  53. ^ "Fake heiress Anna Sorokin: 'Crime pays, in a way'". BBC News. 2021-03-10. Retrieved 14 February 2022.
  54. ^ "大马王子在澳门狂赢1.3亿然后大撒币?真相原来是丨无路可套" (in Chinese). 知乎专栏. 15 July 2018. Archived from the original on 27 August 2018.
  55. ^ "Elizabeth Holmes is found guilty of four counts of fraud". July 15, 2018.{{cite news}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)}}