10 Top Con Artists Ever Existed

Charles Ponzi

Charles ‘The Ponz’ Ponzi is, quite simply, one of the greatest swindlers in American history. The creator of “Ponzi Scheme”.


Ponzi made a lot getting coupon stamps from different countries and selling them in  US, where the value was way more. He promised his clients a 50% profit within 45 days, or 100% profit within 90 days. In reality, Ponzi was just getting more and more investors, was buying nothing and just paying early investors with new investments. The scheme ran for an year. He was making close to $250,000 in a day, just running this scheme.  After this, Ponzi was eventually sentenced, after he was released, died in poverty.

It is believed that he wanted o make a business directory, which he couldn’t do, after his death, a similar idea came to life , The Yellow Pages.

Victor Lustig

The man sold the Eiffel tower twice, sold fake money printing machines and scammed Al Capone! He was caught because of an operation he ran to counterfeit American dollar, which was so huge that it might have lead people to loose confidence in the American economy. He was a just a 5’7″ man, 140 pounds, spoke 6 languages fluently and could have charmed anyone he wanted to. He used a number of aliases and carried dozens of fake passports, he lied his way through life, even to this day his true identity is under question.  In prison paperwork his name is Robert V. Miller, just another name.


Lustig persuaded Al Capone to invest $50,000 in a stock deal, and kept in in a safe deposit for two months, claiming that the deal was unsuccessful he returned all his money, impressed by his loyalty Capone gave him $5,000, which is what Lustig planned.

Frank Abagnale

He became one of the most famous impostors ever, even inspired the movie “Catch Me If You Can. His fake identities included a airline pilot, physician, a U.S. Bureau of Prisons agent. He escaped from police custody twice, before he was 21 years old.

abagnale with imposter crew

He is currently working as a consultant for the FBI academy and runs Abagnale & Associates.

Joseph “Yellow Kid” Weil

A famous con man of his era. He stole a total of close to 8 Million.  According to his biography “uncanny knowledge of human nature”,  he says that each of his victims had larceny in their heart. Some of his cons include robbing the Italian dictator Benito Mussolini close to $2 Million, staging fake prize fights, selling “talking” dogs, and selling oil-rich land that he did not own.He spent 6 years in jail for his crimes.

joseph-weil-yellow-kid con art

He wrote in his biography that most people are robbed because of the desire to get something from nothing, and if people learn that, we would live in peace and harmony.

George Parker

He made a living selling faomous landmarks, properties that he did not own. The properties that he sold included some of the most iconic landmarks, including Statue of Libery, Madison Square Garden, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Grant’s Tomb, and the Brooklyn Bridge.

con george parker

He sold the Brooklyn bridge to visitors so often that many times police had to remove visitors erecting toll booths on the bridge. The popular phrase “and if you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you” is based on his conquests. He was extremely convincing and had a charismatic personality which also made him popular among the prison guards and convicts while he was spending his last few years in prison.

Eduardo de Valfierno

The Man who stole Mona Lisa and sold it to 6 different buyers.con man valentino

On August 21, 1911 Peruggia hid the Mona Lisa under his coat and simply walked out the door. In 1932 journalist Karl Decker published a story claiming he paid several men to steal the Mona Lisa including museum employees.

He made 6 duplicate copies of the painting, before the heist and shipped it to countries where he wanted to sell the paintings. Once he stole the painting in an elegant and simple way, the news of his heist was in the newspaper. Now his buyers believed that the painting was stolen and 6 buyers bought the painting, none of which were the true copy. Later he was caught with the painting, while trying to sell it to yet another buyer.

Bernard Madoff

The former non-executive chairman of the NASDAQ, a former stock broker and financial consultant. He ran a Ponzi scheme which was probably the largest financial fraud in U.S. history. The largest Ponzi scheme in history was a fraud estimated to be of the value $64 Billion. 360_bernard_madoff_1212

Madoff founded the firm Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC in 1960, the company became one of the leading investment firms on wall street. Madoff pleaded guilty converting it into a Ponzi scheme in 1990s, ripping off 4800 clients. He was arrested and sentenced for 150 years, with restitution of $170 Billion.

Reed Slatkin

 The co-founder of EarthLink, and a Scientology minister. In 1984 he became an investor, before which he was a full time scientology minister. Most of his victims were infact Scientologists. reed slatkinHis scheme was just like Ponzi himself, he payed early investors from the money collected by subsequent investors. The scheme ran from 1986 to 2001 raising $500 Million.Many of his victims were also Scientologists. His lawyers tried to “shamefully”(Shamefully according to Scientology’s lawyers) blame his behavior on Scientology.

Ferdinand Waldo Demara


There is no evidence that Where’s Waldo is inspired by The Great Impostor

Known as ‘The Great Impostor’. He inspired the movie, The Great Impostor. Demara possesed a photographic memory , an extraordinary IQ. According to him his motivation was “Rascality, pure rascality”.

2 Beliefs of gaining power and fitting into any role according to Waldo were: 1.In any organization there is always a lot of loose, gain power without alienating anyone. 2.If you want power and want to expand open up new possibilities, don’t try to get into other’s domain.

His impersonations included a ship doctor, assistant prison warden, civil engineer, deputy sheriff, psychologist, lawyer, monk, writer, cancer researcher, teacher and a few more. He wanted temporary respectability more than money.

Steven Jay Russellsteven-jay-russell-001

Russell escaped prison many times,  once by impersonating a prison guard and walking right out of the prison without anyone noticing. After escaping, he was caught because he continued scamming people. This time his bail was high and he couldn’t pay it, so he used the jail phone pretended to be the judge and got the bail amount reduced and paid it off, was eventually caught but escaped 4 more times.

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