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Con Artists
A new book to add to my reading list:

A Disposition to Be Rich
csmonitor.com

Geoffrey Ward’s cagily titled book, A Disposition to Be Rich, about his great grandfather isn’t so much written as lived in. In colorful and remarkable detail it chronicles the brazen exploits of Ferdinand Ward, “the best-hated man in the United States” and the pre-eminent Ponzi schemer of the Reconstruction Era. Not only did Ferd swindle former President Ulysses S. Grant out of millions in today’s dollars – making Grant a near-pauper as he was dying of tongue cancer – but Ferd’s greed also caused the collapse of several banks and the embarrassment of any number of high-ranking politicians and businessmen.
Categories: Books, Con Artists
Posted by Alex on Wed May 09, 2012
Comments (0)
Fairies have a pretty good public image. They're widely regarded as good creatures, since they're small, delicate, and magical. But in European folklore, they were often considered quite malevolent. The wikipedia article on fairies notes the belief in fairy kidnapping:

Any form of sudden death might stem from a fairy kidnapping, with the apparent corpse being a wooden stand-in with the appearance of the kidnapped person. Consumption (tuberculosis) was sometimes blamed on the fairies forcing young men and women to dance at revels every night, causing them to waste away from lack of rest. Fairies riding domestic animals, such as cows or pigs or ducks, could cause paralysis or mysterious illnesses.



And apparently, the belief in fairy kidnapping created an opportunity for con artists. Dr. Beachcombing, who runs Beachcombing's Bizarre History Blog, notes the existence of what he calls "fairy shysters":

Sharp swindlers who, in the nineteenth and twentieth century, went around taking innocent and usually vulnerable men and women for 'a ride'. Beach has gathered some remarkable examples together, including three extraordinary instances of 'fairy shysters' posing as fairy kidnapped family members.

Unfortunately, Dr. Beachcombing is holding off on describing these cases until a later date, but I thought the idea of a fairy shyster was intriguing.
Categories: Con Artists, Paranormal
Posted by Alex on Fri May 04, 2012
Comments (1)

Kenneth Shong
I think I'll add a degree from Carlingford University to my resume. I'll list it alongside my degree in Loch Ness Monster studies from Bigfoot U.

Carlingford was a fake university -- a diploma mill -- created by con artist Kenneth Shong, while he was in prison on forgery charges. He was getting his fellow inmates to enroll there, having convinced them it was real. Though one inmate became suspicious of "'poor business practices and unresponsiveness' in relation to the school returning his grades and giving further lessons."

Shong made a website for Carlingford, to make it seem slightly more legitimate. I found an archived copy of the site on the wayback machine. The site boasted that Carlingford taught students, "the ability to think creatively and critically" -- just not critically enough to realize they were being conned.

More astute critical thinkers might have noticed the site included a short rant about how the accreditation process is a scam (and therefore why Carlingford wasn't accredited) -- which is the kind of thing you don't usually find on the websites of legitimate universites:

The word 'accreditation' is a concept that only exists in the US. It is mostly a concept to make money (to be accredited, you have to pay an agency to do so), and there are 7 major accrediting agencies in the US. No other country in the world uses this term or concept.

Prison officials cottoned on to Shong's scheme around 2007. But it was only a week ago that he went to court to face a charge of fraud -- immediately after he had finished serving his sentence on the forgery charges. Links: Daily Mail, Green Bay Press Gazette.
Categories: Con Artists, Education
Posted by Alex on Fri Jan 20, 2012
Comments (2)
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Mark Hayward
A pile of dirt may not be worth much money. But a pile of dirt that was once beneath Yankee Stadium could potentially have more value. Especially if that dirt was packed into key chains and other corporate gift items and then sold at a big markup in sporting goods stores.

That was the pitch Mark Hayward used to convince a victim to give him $35,000 -- as an investment in this Yankee dirt scheme. As far as I can tell (the news report isn't really clear) Hayward never had the dirt in question. Eventually the victim got suspicious. And now Hayward is facing charges of first-degree larceny. Link: ctpost.com.
Categories: Business/Finance, Con Artists, Sports
Posted by Alex on Wed Jan 18, 2012
Comments (0)
On June 4 Steven Decker of Muscatine, Iowa sold a white powder to an undercover agent. He said it was cocaine, but it wasn't. It was fake cocaine. In the eyes of the law, this doesn't let him off the hook. He's being charged with "delivery of a simulated controlled substance" and is looking at up to ten years in prison and $50,000 in fines.

I'm sure Decker is not exactly a boy-scout, but being charged for selling fake cocaine is a curious concept. Added irony: he was selling a simulated controlled substance to a simulated controlled substance buyer.
Categories: Con Artists, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Tue Nov 25, 2008
Comments (10)
Here's one for the "If you're this stupid, you deserve to be conned" file: The victim encounters two people in a Wal-Mart parking lot who are engaging in a transaction involving a diamond. The buyer (a man) offers the seller (a woman) $20,000 for the diamond. A normal person would think, "This is an odd location to be having this kind of transaction." Instead, the victim asks if she can buy a diamond also, and gets $1900 from the bank to pay for it. Surprise! She later discovers the diamond is fake. Link: Recordnet.com
Categories: Con Artists, Scams
Posted by Alex on Fri Nov 21, 2008
Comments (2)
Tony Golossian is accused of repeatedly luring a woman to motels, where he then blindfolded and sexually assaulted her. He told her it was all part of a ritual to remove a "black magic" curse on her family. If she didn't agree to participate, her 15-year-old sister would supposedly develop breast cancer and her "fallopian tubes would no longer function." Adding insult to injury, the woman paid him almost $100,000 for these "prayer sessions."

I hate to blame the victim, but is there ANYTHING that woman wouldn't believe?

At the trial Golossian complained of chest pains and had to be hospitalized. The doctors determined he was "trying to pervert the course of justice by imitating a heart attack."

Link: The Daily Telegraph.
Categories: Con Artists
Posted by Alex on Wed Sep 17, 2008
Comments (4)
He's African Con-Cheater:

His talent as a Con-Man makes him luring people into a "business-partnership" with him that will allow him to withdraw all money you have deposited into "His" account.

If you help bring him to justice, you will receive 50% of the recovered money. Too bad he's probably already spent it all!

Sent in by Norbert Harms, to whom lovemeadow.com is registered.
Categories: Con Artists
Posted by Alex on Tue Jul 22, 2008
Comments (5)
Horse thievery used to be a huge problem. After the American Civil War it became so rampant in the West that it inspired the creation of a vigilante group that called itself the Anti Horse Thief Association. This group had, at one point, 30,000 members.

But horse theft is something I thought became obsolete with the widespread adoption of automobiles. Apparently not. Authorities in Tennessee are warning of a modern-day horse theft scam. People are showing up at farms claiming to be from Horse Haven (a humane organization for horses). They say they're there to take away the horses. Horse Haven does occasionally seize horses, if the horses are being neglected or harmed, but a Horse Haven spokesman says, "Horse Haven representatives always have ID, we operate within the law, and we never try to seize horses without law enforcement present."

If you have a horse, be on the lookout for these guys.
Categories: Animals, Con Artists, Scams
Posted by Alex on Tue Jul 15, 2008
Comments (4)
This story is a great example of the truism that no security system can be better than the people operating it. Thieves broke into a museum at the University of British Columbia and stole gold artwork worth over $2 million. They got around the security system simply by calling the guards, pretending to be from the alarm company, and telling them to ignore any alarms that might go off that night. From cbc.ca:

Four hours before the break-in on May 23, two or three key surveillance cameras at the Museum of Anthropology mysteriously went off-line. Around the same time, a caller claiming to be from the alarm company phoned campus security, telling them there was a problem with the system and to ignore any alarms that might go off. Campus security fell for the ruse and ignored an automated computer alert sent to them, police sources told CBC News.
Categories: Con Artists, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Wed Jun 04, 2008
Comments (4)
Canadian police are searching for two men who "falsely represented themselves as a spiritual healer and his assistant." Which raises the question: what counts as a real spiritual healer?

The healer guy advertised himself on the radio as Brother Roshan. He used a magic trick to con his victims out of money. CTV.CA reports:
Roshan wrote the names of each of his client's family members on each egg. He then placed the eggs in a covered pot of boiling water. Once they were cooked, he took out each egg and broke them open.
When he opened the egg with the client's name on it, there was a lottery ticket inside with a note saying they will win the lottery.
Clients were then told they must do the good deed of donating money if they hoped to claim their lottery prize. They were told the money was for expensive "prayer powder" from India that would help him rid people of curses.

Some people "donated" over $100,000 to Roshan.

This gives me an idea. Instead of a Museum of Hoaxes, I should open a "Museum of Good Luck and Prosperity." I'll tell people that if they make a donation to the museum it'll guarantee them good luck. I'd make a fortune.
Categories: Con Artists, Religion
Posted by Alex on Thu Jan 24, 2008
Comments (2)
Here's a case for the Streater sisters to tackle. Scotsman.com reports that:

FAKE fishmongers are continuing to operate in Edinburgh, targeting residents in Newington and Fairmilehead in the past week, according to Trading Standards.

It seems that these scam artists are wrapping Vietnamese catfish in polystyrene and cling film, then labeling it as "monkfish fillet," and using high-pressure sales techniques to get random people on the street to buy the phony fish. Up to three of them might surround a customer at a single time. Reportedly, "a person in Newington paid £90 for fish, while another paid almost £400 to the individuals."

This is a dastardly crime! Imagine just walking along the street and suddenly being surrounded by fishmongers. It would be enough to break anyone's will. The police report that the individuals "are believed to be trading from a white van with 'Sarrillion' printed on the side."
Categories: Con Artists
Posted by Alex on Fri Nov 16, 2007
Comments (5)
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