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Con Artists
A New Hampshire convenience store clerk claims that he was robbed. However, the thieves didn't use any weapons or threats. Instead, they used hypnosis and mind control to make the clerk not notice that they were taking more than $1000. First coast news reports:
It started with a simple mind game. Think of a wild animal, they say, and we'll write down what's in your mind. but it escalates quickly to very personal information about a former girlfriend, and finally, says Patel, mind control. Even investigators are persuaded.
Patel says that the actual moment of hypnosis occurred when the thieves gave him a piece of paper and asked him to cut it into eleven smaller pieces. The clerk has also said that he'll pay back what was robbed.

Apparently this method of robbery has been used before in India (the thieves were Indian, as was the clerk), but I've never heard of it being used before this in America.
Categories: Con Artists, Law/Police/Crime, Psychology
Posted by Alex on Tue Oct 02, 2007
Comments (11)
Elliot's latest addition to the Hoaxipedia details scams involving the Brooklyn Bridge. I like this one in particular:
In 1886, not long after the Brooklyn Bridge opened, another famous scam was perpetrated by a Brooklyn bookie named Steve Brodie. According to the story, Brodie’s scam originated in a bet with a Brooklyn bartender named Chuck Connors. The bookie wagered Connors that he could jump off the Brooklyn Bridge and survive the fall.
Steve Brodie ultimately won the bet and wound up becoming a major New York City celebrity and legend.
It was discovered years later that Brodie had actually pushed a dummy off the Bridge and hid under a pier.
Categories: Con Artists, Places
Posted by Alex on Thu Aug 30, 2007
Comments (5)
Damon Armagost probably thought he had a pretty good scam going. He had printed up some fake $100 bills from an image he downloaded off the internet. He was then using this counterfeit money to pay for lap dances at a strip club. He must have thought the strippers would never notice the money was fake. Unfortunately for him, they did and alerted the police, who arrested Armagost and charged him with manufacturing and passing counterfeit currency.

Carl Sifakis, in his book Hoaxes and Scams, reports on a similar scam called "tishing a lady." It involves paying a prostitute with tissue paper instead of real money. The con artist flashes a large bill at the prostitute and makes a show of stuffing it into her stocking. But in reality he palms the bill and stuffs in tissue paper instead.

Sifakis writes that the con-artist Count Victor Lustig frequently used this scam. He would "warn the female that he had given her trick money, and if she removed it before the following day it would turn to tissue paper. The lady would promise to comply with the rules, but as soon as Lustig left, she would remove her reward; alas, it had indeed turned to tissue paper."
Categories: Business/Finance, Con Artists, Sex/Romance
Posted by Alex on Mon Aug 27, 2007
Comments (7)
Here's a couple that were making a career out of the inappropriate things found in food scam.

Ronald Evano and his wife Mary would go to a restaurant, purposefully eat glass, get themselves hospitalized, and then threaten to sue the restaurant. They did this at least a dozen times and collected over $200,000 in compensation. The AP reports:
Evano said in court that he and his wife ate the glass because they needed money. "We would go to a restaurant, and I'd say I had glass in my food," Evano said. "Then I would go to the hospital and say I was in pain." Over the years, one or both claimed to have eaten glass at establishments in Braintree and Quincy, Mass.; Bethesda and Gaithersburg, Md.; Washington D.C.; Providence, R.I.; and Midlothian, Va. The couple used false names, Social Security numbers and identity cards. Evano is in custody and is to be sentenced next month. He could receive up to 100 years in prison.
The things some people will do for money.
Categories: Con Artists, Food
Posted by Alex on Thu Aug 16, 2007
Comments (4)
Steorn is an Irish company which has announced that it's developed a "free energy" machine. "Free energy" is another name for "perpetual motion." As you may recall from high school physics, perpetual motion is theoretically impossible according to the known laws of physics. "Pshaw" says Steorn (figuratively, anyway).

So, time for the Big Unveiling came...and went. "Technical problems" says Steorn. Gee, you'd think that a company which has a paradigm-shattering technology would make sure that everything was ready to go before announcing a demo, wouldn't you? No worries, though, they're going to unveil it on the Fifth. I'm sure that every oil company executive will be anxiously sitting in front of his computer, terrified of the machine that will inevitably put him out of work. And then pigs will fly like 747's above the landscape.

Perpetual motion at long last?

UPDATE:

Per mo no go

UPDATE II:

Steorn device linked to Intelligent Design

MORE: Smirk as a Steorn exec "explains" their device's failure:

Schadenfreude

UPDATE: Let the lying begin!

Steorn CEO tries to explain

Gaze upon the Orbo, disbelievers!
Categories: Con Artists, Free Energy, Technology
Posted by Cranky Media Guy on Thu Jul 05, 2007
Comments (13)
So, this guy tells people he has a "revolutionary" technology that speeds up downloading from the Internet by a factor of maybe a hundred times or more. With it, you can download a full-length movie in seconds. He's had meetings with the President and vice-President about it and is working on ways to use it to beef up national security. Who wouldn't invest in a thing like that? He even wheedles money out of his relatives and his wife's family.

OK, you can see where this is going, right? The thing's a fake, a phony, a fraud. To be honest, I kind of hesitate to post stories like this since this site concerns itself with hoaxes; this, I would say, belongs more in the "scam" category. Still, it has hoax elements to it, so for what it's worth, here it is for your dining and dancing pleasure.

Breakthrough Internet Scam

UPDATE:

The Plot Thickens
Categories: Business/Finance, Con Artists, Technology
Posted by Cranky Media Guy on Mon Jul 02, 2007
Comments (12)
The Press Club of Dallas has been a much-respected institution for years, offering the annual Katie awards to journalists for high quality work. Recently, though, the organisation’s reputation has been dealt a crippling blow, with the news that their recent president, Elizabeth Albanese, has been falsifying the award results for at least the past two years.

Albanese became involved with the Katies in 2003, the year she first won prizes, and has been reportedly tampering with the results every year since.

For the 2003 awards, unlike following years, a list of judges for the awards was provided. However, it appears that Albanese and her husband had access to each judge’s nominations for weeks before the ceremony, which certainly gave them the opportunity to alter them. Albanese won two awards.

In 2004, Albanese was acting as co-chair for the awards. Tom Stewart, the new president of the Press Club, has told reporters that the list of judges for that year cannot be found.

The judges for the 2005 and 2006 awards have been equally elusive. For the 2006 results, even the entries are missing. Volunteers packed them, and loaded them into Albanese’s car. After that, what happened to them is a mystery. Albanese claims that her husband’s company shipped the forms, but there are no records of this happening, and no-one but Albanese, and possibly her husband, know where they went. Tom Stewart is quoted as saying ”I wish to hell I knew. Greatest mystery to me. For all I know they’re in the damn Trinity River.”
Albanese won four awards that year - the most given to anyone.

Albanese was a social woman, slipping stories of her fascinating life into stories she told her friends.
These included:
*that she had a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Texas
*being born in Ireland, then moving to New York as a child
*being diagnosed with bone cancer, forcing the family to move to Houston so she could get treatment
*that her mother was a fashion model in New York
*that her father had been assistant manager at Plaza Hotel, and the family lived there
*that she had been a University of Texas cheerleader
*that she had married to Greek basketball player who had died in a car accident
*that she had worked for CNN during the first gulf war
*that she had a Harvard Law degree

What is known of her, much of which contradicts these tales, is this. Lisa Jeanne Albanese was born in White Plains, New York. When her working class family moved to a refinery town near Houston, her father worked in a car dealership. The only high school where she grew up has no record of her graduating, she never graduated college, and she did not even attend Harvard Law School. The family never lived in the Plaza. Albanese has a record of mental illness and delusional behaviour, and also a criminal record. In 1994, she was arrested for writing a bad check for a second-hand car. When the charge was entered into the system, it was discovered she was wanted in Texas for theft of two aeroplane tickets.

In February of 2007, Durhl Caussey - Albanese’s own choice for head of the club’s finance committee - was sent to pick up the financial records from Mac Duvall, their former bookkeeper. This proved to be a big mistake for Albanese. Duvall had proof of over $10,000 racked up on the club’s credit card. Between February and December of 2006, Albanese had been treating the card as if it were her own, blowing hundreds of dollars at a time on clothes, flights and hotel rooms. Duvall also showed Caussey records of the hundreds of emails he had sent Albanese regarding the club’s finances - emails that had never been shown to the rest of the board. Little wonder, with that sort of evidence, that Albanese had spoken to the board about firing Duvall. Caussey phoned Albanese for an explanation, whereupon she claimed it had been an honest mistake, and that she had paid back all the money. The records, however, showed that she still owed the club $3,000.

March 13th, 2007, became a showdown between Albanese and her doubters. At the meeting on this date, Durhl Caussey handed out copies of her credit card transactions to all the board members. Reactions were divided, with her supporters becoming angry at the ambush.
This was the point where Rand LaVonn, president of the Press Club Foundation stepped in. He made one request - “Please identify the judges for the 2006 Katie Awards and provide proof.”
Albanese claimed to not remember who the judges were, but promised to hand over a list of shipping labels to which the entries had been sent. Following the meeting, she told Meredith Dickenson - who considered her a friend - that she had destroyed the list, and was not going to provide any information. She made good on that statement. When Dickenson phoned her to ask about the judges, Albanese came up with strings of excuses - her husband had the labels and was out of town; she couldn’t call him as they didn’t talk when he was on business; she’d replaced her laptop without transferring the files…

Eventually, Albanese did provide a list of judges for the 2006 awards. However, the press club do not believe that the list is real. Some of the phone numbers didn’t work, one was answered by a hospital in Tennessee, and no-one has ever come forward to say they had been involved in the judging.

The club have no proof that any judging took place from 2004 until 2006 and, if that is the case, nearly 600 awards were handed out at Albanese’s whims. Several of her staunch defenders were winners in that timeframe.

Sadly, it looks like the Press Club of Dallas may have to bring to a close the annual award ceremony. Doing so will lose the monetary support the club used to rent its office space and to pay for journalistic scholarships. Some are still hoping that the awards may be revived but, for 2007, their future seems in doubt.

(Thanks to Kathleen for the story, and Madmouse for help with the post.)
Categories: Con Artists, Identity/Imposters, Journalism, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Flora on Mon Jun 25, 2007
Comments (19)
This is a weird one. A book allegedly written by a young man, JT LeRoy, made a sensation recently. JT was a truck stop hooker, got involved with drugs, was possibly transgendered and generally had a pretty screwed-up life. The book was billed as non-fiction, supposedly the true story of JT's life. Naturally, it sold very well.

Oprah loved it, the movie director Gus VanSant and other Hollywood types were interested in it. Then the JT LeRoy saga started coming apart. Funny story, turns out there is no such person as JT LeRoy.

Even funnier, also turns out that more than one person, some of them female, portrayed JT at book signings and other appearances. As you'd expect, the people who put up good money to produce a book based on "JT"'s life story didn't see the humor in the situation. They sued Laura Albert, the woman who really wrote the book and who recruited friends and relatives to play JT.

The case came to trial this week. I don't want to spoil the ending for you, so click on the link and see how the case turned out. Oh, and you're gonna LOVE Albert's lawyer's defense of her actions. It's, uh, creative, I'll give him that.

AOL News, JT LeRoy.

OK, this is annoying. The article that link takes you to had a summary of Albert's defense of her actions, but it's been changed since I originally copied the link. The gist of it is that the lawyer said that Albert suffered from "multiple personalities." Now you *might* be able to buy that, but she claims that her multiples were contagious (my term) to explain how other people portrayed "JT" when the "author" needed to make an appearance. I've found the reference elsewhere, though.

From the Augusta Chronicle:

Albert and her lawyers say the matter is more complicated.

The middle-aged Albert testified during the trial that she had been assuming male identities for decades as a coping mechanism for psychological problems brought on by her sexual abuse as a child. To her, she said, Leroy was real — something akin to a different personality living inside her, but one that was capable of transferring to the people she hired to impersonate him.


UPDATE:

If the meme of the 90's was, "I know I did something wrong, but I apologize from the bottom of my heart and, by the way, I've found Jesus," the Ought's version seems to be, "I have no idea why you think what I did was wrong. I'm a misunderstood genius unappreciated by philistines like you."

I direct your attention to:

Gawker story on J T LeRoy.
Categories: Con Artists, Folklore/Tall Tales, Identity/Imposters, Literature/Language
Posted by Cranky Media Guy on Mon Jun 25, 2007
Comments (11)
imageimage
Flowers growing from a steel pipe (NEO)
A Chinese man has found what he believes to be a patch of white flowers growing from a steel pipe in his vegetable garden.
Ding has consulted his neighbours, who believe the flowers are the legendary Youtan Poluo flower, which blossoms only once every 3,000 years.
“No soil, no water. These flowers can bring me good luck,” he added.

Forum members suspect, however, that the 'flowers' are lacewing eggs (see pictures to compare.)

Make your bad grades disappear! (Accipiter)
A student worried about re-taking a year at school because of his bad exam results talked two friends into entering a classroom wearing masks, threatening the teacher with an iron bar, and attempting to steal the report cards. Sadly for the sixteen-year old and his accomplices, the other students in the class defended the teacher, and they fled without the reports. The associates, aged 14 and 15 respectively, were arrested near to the school.

Herman Munster's Identity Stolen (Tah)
Internet thieves on an underground chatroom were offering the personal identification data of Herman Munster. Apparently unfamiliar with the television series The Munsters, the thieves were offering information such as his address - 1313 Mocking Bird Lane - and his Mastercard number. The theory is that a fan of the programme deliberately provided the bogus data.

A horror movie come to life (Iridium)
Three families in Fircrest claim to have been victims of harassment for four months now. The families say that the mysterious stalkers are tracking their moves, controlling their cell phones, and sending death threats.
Somehow, the callers have gained control of the family cell phones, Price and Kuykendall say. Messages received by the sisters include snatches of conversation overheard on cell-phone mikes, replayed and transmitted via voice mail. Phone records show many of the messages coming from Courtney’s phone, even when she’s not using it – even when it’s turned off.
Whilst the phone company claims this is impossible, the Department of Commerce says that there is such thing as a 'roving bug', which will work whether the phone is on or not, and can pinpoint its location to within a few feet.
Categories: Con Artists, Identity/Imposters, Law/Police/Crime, Miscellaneous, Technology
Posted by Flora on Fri Jun 22, 2007
Comments (7)
Swindlers conned a Vietnamese businessman into buying $25,000 worth of "God Metal." Apparently, the existence of God Metal is an old folk legend in Vietnam. According to Thanh Nien News:
‘God metal’, also known as ‘black copper’, is almost a myth in Vietnam. Those who claim to have seen it say it is extremely heavy but floats in an iron bucket of water. In its vicinity glass shatters, matches and lighters do not ignite, iron nails are repelled, and gold turns white.
The mark for the scam thought he could resell the God Metal for millions of dollars. But first he wanted to make sure that it could do all that the legend said:
The gang came with a notebook-sized bar of black copper weighing 2.1 kg. They performed ‘tests’ in front of him and the metal seemed to possess all its mythical properties: a mirror and a clinical thermometer did shatter into pieces and a gas lighter failed to ignite.
They even showed him a burnt mobile phone, claiming to have “forgotten to turn it off before placing it near the metal”.

He paid the gang an advance of $25,000. But the next day the swindlers were nowhere to be found. Nor was his cash. (Thanks, Joe.)
Categories: Business/Finance, Con Artists
Posted by Alex on Sat Jun 09, 2007
Comments (4)
Residents of Ashford, England have been warned of a nefarious scam being practiced in the area. A "bogus caller" claiming to be a tree surgeon will knock on a person's door. The caller tells the person they have a problem tree in their yard that needs some work. Borough tree officer Mark Symonds warns that, "Sadly, some have been taken in and had prize trees ruined by shoddy workmanship. No reputable local tree surgeon would call unannounced in the hope of finding work.” The Kent News reports:
Mr Symonds warned people not to be taken in by doorstep callers claiming connections with the council, even if they showed a business card and appeared to have some knowledge of trees. And he said anyone could call themselves a tree surgeon - but he said a competent professional would have a certificate to show they had been trained. They would also often have other qualifications along with safety equipment to protect residents, property, and themselves.
Frankly, I had no clue there even was such a thing as a "Borough tree officer." And if someone had come to my door offering to work on my trees, I might have been totally taken in. Now I'll know better.
Categories: Con Artists
Posted by Alex on Wed May 30, 2007
Comments (5)
English pianist Joyce Hatto had risen to some prominence over the year preceding her death. Whilst she never played in public, recordings of her performances of works by artists such as Liszt, Schubert, Rachmaninov and Dukas, produced by her husband from a private studio, had her hailed as an unknown genius.

However, an iTunes programme that compares recordings with an online database has thrown her abilities into doubt.

A critic for the classical music magazine Gramophone was surprised to find that, when he loaded into his computer a recording of the pianist playing Liszt, the programme identified it as the work of the pianist Laszlo Simon on BIS Records. The critic tried again, this time using a disc of a Hatto recital of Rachmaninov. Once more, his computer listed it as the work of another pianist, Yemif Bronfman.

The critic was aware of certain rumours doubting Hatto's performances which had been floating around the internet, so he sent the recordings to audio expert Andrew Rose, who confirmed that the soundwaves of the Hatto recitals were identical to the ones of the other pianists.

Gramophone reports how Rose produced a section on his website that allows listeners to compare the pattern of soundwaves of Hatto's recordings with other pianists. When Rose went on to compare the Rachmaninov recital with the Bronfman recording, they also matched.
(Thanks, Sophie.)

UPDATE (28/2/07): Gramophone magazine reports that Hatto's husband has admitted to the scam.
(Thanks, Floormaster Squeeze.)
Categories: Art, Con Artists, Journalism, Technology
Posted by Flora on Tue Feb 20, 2007
Comments (10)
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