History’s Most Brazen Con Artists

It takes a whole lot of skill, confidence and just a dash of charisma to fool others into parting ways with their money. As the old saying goes. what happens in the dark will come out in the light, and so does the lies and deceit pulled by tricksters. That was certainly the case for these five con artists below who are perhaps some of the most bold and shameless ones in all of history.

1. Victor Lustig Sold the Eiffel Tower Twice

In 1925, the Eiffel Tower was in such poor condition that the government even considered selling it for scrap. Upon reading this in the newspaper, Victor Lustig seized the opportunity to pose as a government official who “sold” 7,000 the tower to the highest bidder among several local scrap dealers. He promptly fled the country, but returned a second time to fool a new victim, who reported him unlike the first one who was most likely ashamed. But it was too late as Lustig was already hiding in the U.S.

2. Frederic Bourdin Pretended to be Children

Frederic Bourdin is the self-proclaimed “Chameleon from Nantes” who pretends to be children for attention and money, never to prey on them. He even has a tattoo of his nickname as a testament to his manipulative skills. Like that time at the age of 23, when he convinced a family that he was the missing 16-year-old son, despite the different eye color and accent. And at 31, he pretended to be a 15-year-old orphan who even attended school and made friends. But it was a school official who blew the whistle on his charade after recognizing his face on a TV show.

3. Anthony Gignac Pretended to Be a Saudi Prince

Who doesn’t wish they were a wealthy Saudi prince? Anthony Gignac does, to the point where he made this a reality. Well, sort of. He must have been pretty convincing of his fake identity as he managed to pull this off several times before the police were made aware of his royal scams. Gignac weaseled his way into many elite circles who offered him opportunities that allowed his net worth to grow to a whopping $8 million. And as part of his act, Gignac was sure to post fake pics of private jets, expensive jewelry and even fake diplomatic plates for his Ferrari.

4. Mary Bateman’s Prophetic Chicken

Mary Bateman was the quintessential psychic scammer who claimed that she had a special connection with the other side. She also had an equally special chicken who had the divine ability to lay with messages from God inscribed on them. Apparently, it once laid an egg which read “Crist is coming” clearly across the shell, typo and all. And she got away with it for quite some time, that is until a stranger, who hid in the bushes, spotted her weakening the egg shell with vinegar, scratching in the message, then placing the egg back into the poor chicken. 

5. David Stein Painted Same Day Art Forgeries

Feeling that his talent always went unnoticed, David Stein turned to a life of forgery, setting his sight on copying Marc Chagall’s works. He would present himself as a reputable rep, sell the real painting, return home to make three copies, then sell them to various art dealers. This went on for quite some time between the 60s and 70s, until the real Marc Chagall happened to enter a gallery while Stein was in the middle of selling the three fake copies of his paintings.

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