The 10 most famous Fraudsters of all time
Today, when trying to associate the word “scammer” with a face, the average Internet user (of which I am one) thinks of that of a yahoo boy stashed away in the depths of his cyber-cafe… Grave mistake! Or rather serious lack of culture! Why? Simply because history has shown that men far more successful than these have displayed an ingenuity, a charisma, an audacity, an ambition, an imagination infinitely higher than our daily annoyances. The scammers we are going to introduce to you in this article have (or had) real talents dedicated to swindling… until they were caught by the law… However, like them or not, they deserve the superlatives used in this introduction.
Now let’s get into the “fascinating” world of the best fraudsters of all time!
Charles Ponzi: the “master”
We’ll call him “the master.” Well, even on the bad guys’ side, that role exists… Charles Ponzi is a small Italian who came to settle in the United States at the beginning of the twentieth century. “Small” not in ambition but rather in his wallet, which was said to contain only $2.5…
In 1919, he became the instigator of a scam that would later take his name: The “Ponzi scheme“. The principle is simple and relies solely on the trust and reputation given to the scammer by the victims. It consists of creating an investment fund that allows people who have deposited money to receive interest on the funds invested. The only catch: the interest came from the money placed by the new contractors and not from any gains made by the “banker” in the stock market. This system works as long as the mass of investors grows but is bound to collapse as soon as the number of newcomers becomes too small or there are too many of them wanting their money back…
Bernard Madoff: the student who surpasses “the master”
Sentenced to 150 years in prison, Bernard Madoff is the worthy “heir” of Charles PONZI! He is the man of all superlatives:
- 8848 complaints against him
- A $65 billion scam (the biggest in history)
- $290 million in lawyers’ and consultants’ fees to recover the money scattered by the scam…
Bernard Madoff was an American businessman who made his fortune by convincing wealthy individuals to invest in an investment fund he created. He succeeded in perpetrating a vast scam that lasted nearly 40 years … until the crisis of 2008 face to discover the pot to roses. He did not invent anything since he took over the principles laid down several decades earlier by Charles PONZI. He nevertheless knew how to put in confidence “mastodon” investors like banks or stars like Spielberg!
Christophe Rocancourt: The “chameleon” charmer…and mostly bullshitter
We like this one. Firstly because he is French (as us) and especially because he displayed an uncommon audacity. He is a very well known swindler who has in particular conned many American stars by abusing their trust. To do this, he impregnated himself with their identities by reading their biographies: this allowed him to better understand their interests and to integrate their lives. Using several identities (boxer, rich heir of the Rockefeller family…), he managed to scam the French decorator Pierre Lange, the actor Mickey Rourke or Buddy Ochoa.
And the best for last: When he arrived in the US, Christophe Rocancourt did not speak a word of English! He would have learned this language with the help of 2 Bibles that he compared… One written in French and the other in English version.
Victor Lustig: The Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower
Like Christophe Rocancourt, who at one point in his life had embarked on a career of ripping off California drug dealers, Victor Lustig was a man who wasn’t afraid of much. He had wisely rubbed elbows with Al Capone by pretending to sell banknote printing machines… A fine start to a con artist’s career 😉 .
Later, he made his “big score” by relying on the daily news. The one that had caught his attention in the 1920s was the state’s difficulty in meeting the financial needs necessary to maintain the Eiffel Tower. One of the journalists of the time even put forward the humorous hypothesis of selling the Eiffel Tower to cover the state’s debts. It did not take more to Victor Lustig to usurp the identity of a senior official of the French state and by launching a call for tender to scrap dealers. One of them responded favorably and bought the famous tower for 100,000 Francs… Ironically, the guy who got ripped off never filed a complaint, ashamed of being fooled.
Frank Abagnale Jr.: The fraudster turned anti-fraud consultant
This con man is so good, he inspired the famous movie “Catch Me If You Can” played by Leonardo Di Caprio! His life initially consisted of inventing jobs for himself without having studied:
- Airline pilot
- Medical doctor
He was skilled in the art of forgery and escape. Despite a few stints in prison, he has now become a millionaire on the one hand and above all a fraud consultant on his own account. Isn’t life great? 😉 For pleasure, the trailer of the film related at the beginning of paragraph which summarizes what he did!
Grégory Zaoui: The Carbon Tax Scam
Do you know about the carbon tax scam? Probably not… And it’s quite sad because it’s just considered the scam of the century because it allowed the French state to subtract nearly 1.5 billion euros in a few months… Grégory Zaoui is part of the people behind this scam!
How it works explained simply? Since a 2005 climate agreement, each country has what are called quotas (or “rights to pollute”). If it pollutes little, it can resell them… But if it pollutes too much, it must buy some… In fact, Grégory Zaoui found the trick by buying tax-free rights to pollute from some countries and selling them to France, tax-free. Isn’t that great? Well, I think so…
Alfred Sirven: corruption above all
Alfred Sirven is called by some “the crook of the century”! The latter, number 2 of Elf in the 90s has made an incredible embezzlement of funds by creating dozens of accounts (more than 300) ending on offshore tax havens. His main weapon: a corruption network of African businessmen without equal.
Gilbert Chikli: the initiator of the president scam
In recent years, we have regularly heard about “fake president scam.” Gilbert Chikli is unquestionably the father of it. This scam consists in studying in depth the functioning of a company both on its hierarchical and operational aspects. After a long and thorough study, the man takes action by pretending to be a manager and orders a staff member to make a transfer to an external account. Sounds impossible? Yet among the victims are La Banque Postale, Crédit Lyonnais the Galerie Lafayette or even Disneyland Paris…
In 2020, a trial against him is opened for a new case: he is accused of having stolen money by impersonating the French Minister of Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian.
Kim Dotcom: Megaupload as… Megalomania
Kim Dotcom should be understood as Kim.com. His birth name was Kim Schmitz.
He is known for being the creator of the biggest illegal downloading site of the 2000s MEGAUPLOAD. He has, in part, made a fortune from it. He has a very egocentric personality and loves to showcase his money as well as his success: He has owned up to twenty sports cars, a splendid villa worth tens of millions of dollars, a yacht… In 2011, he offered Auckland, his host city a $500,000 fireworks display that he contemplated from his private helicopter:
Aldo Bonassoli: The Sniffer Plane Scam…
We end up with a genius… Aldo Bonassoli was the instigator of a scam that cost the French state several hundred million euros and triggered a real scandal in 1983: the sniffer plane scam. This man, a physicist, claimed to have discovered a process to find oil from a plane… This technique, which was in reality a complete hoax, could, according to him and his accomplices, have saved enormous drilling costs. Thanks to an effective network and faculties of persuasion out of the ordinary, he thus attracted the covetousness of the oil group Elf which belonged to the State at that time… until making his project, a secret defense file!
This top 10 is coming to an end… Feel free to add a comment if you think a famous scammer would belong on this page! Enjoy 🙂