From Nigerian princes to fake IRS phone calls, con artists have been a thorn in society’s side forever. Still, every now and then someone pulls off a con that’s so hard to believe, you almost have to admire their ability to have pulled it off.
Here are 5 con artists who have taken things to the next level:
1. He sold almost $1.5 million in non-existent electronics on Amazon
James Symons used multiple fake accounts to sell expensive electronics on Amazon. When the merchandise didn’t arrive, Amazon was forced to repay the customers and find Symons. He spent more than four years defrauding people using the well-known site.
2. He sold In-n-Out franchises
Craig Stevens conned 10 Middle Eastern investors into buying fake In-n-Out franchises. He was only caught because he emailed the fake franchise agreements, which made it wire fraud and got him two years in a federal prison.
This is especially sad because it’s well documented that In-n-Out doesn’t even sell franchises. So… maybe it’s best practice to Google a franchise before you decide to buy?
3. He’s still wanted by the FBI
Nicolae Popescu is wanted for posting ads for non-existent cars and other high-ticket items on internet auction sites. He worked with a team and used fraudulent passports to open bank accounts and look as legitimate as possible to potential buyers. It’s estimated that he stole more than $3 million from consumers, and there is a $1 million reward for information leading to his arrest.
4. Be careful on Craigslist…
A man was looking for a new boat on Craigslist when he found an unexpected listing—an ad for the boat he already owned. He contacted the “seller,” who turned out to be Gregory Bartucci. Bartucci was convicted of theft, and then went on to try the scam again, this time with two bulldozers.
Some people never learn.
5. This guy sold the Eiffel Tower. TWICE.
Victor Lustig was born in 1890 in what is now in the Czech Republic. He started gambling while he was in college, which led him to a life of petty crime. He pulled cons on both sides of the Atlantic with the help of his fluency in five languages (which, damn!).
In the mid 1920s, the Eiffel Tower wasn’t the glorious city-centerpiece it is today. Actually, it was so run down that Parisians wanted it to be demolished. Lustig saw his opportunity and talked a businessman into “buying” the Eiffel Tower for scrap. When the man went to cash in on the deal, he was so embarrassed to find he was conned, and never reported it to police. This allowed Lustig to scam another businessman, who also “bought” the tower.
Lustig fled Paris and continued his life of crime in the U.S. He was captured and tried in 1935, dying in prison in 1947.