We like talented crooks because they’re smart and make us feel like anyone can screw up the system. But when we talk about scammers, we tend to talk only about guys, whereas there have always been great scammers capable of developing good big scams. Here are 7 that deserve to be known. Even if they did terrible and shameful things to their fellow human beings, they did it with a lot of audacity, and that’s beautiful.
Elizabeth Holmes was convicted in early January 2022 of running Silicon Valley’s biggest scam. And if you ask me, it was well deserved. At the age of 19, she had founded the Theranos company which promised to carry out low-cost comprehensive blood tests using revolutionary technology. His idea was popular and it allowed him to raise more than 700 million dollars from investors. Problem: the “revolutionary” technology never really worked and Theranos had the analyzes subcontracted to other labs. On top of that, the company manipulated the results of some tests to appear more consistent. This little game only lasted a while, and the leaders of Theranos ended up in front of the judge and then Elizabeth Holmes was sentenced for fraud against investors.
2. Anna Sorokin
On February 11, 2022, Netflix will release “Inventing Anna”, a series based on the story of Anna Sorokin, one of the greatest con artists of the 21st century. The story of Anna Sorokin is that of a girl from a Russian family exiled in Germany who wanted to change her identity and way of life. In 2013, Anna is 23 years old and arrives in Paris for an internship in a fashion magazine. She took the opportunity to change her name to Anna Delvey and to invent a German nationality. From there, she goes to all the posh parties, makes a network and leaves for New York. On the spot, she fleshes out her false identity and pretends to be a rich heiress, participates in all the big parties by always being invited by (really) rich people whom she promises to reimburse. To that, she adds a fake contemporary art gallery project for which she manages to borrow tens of thousands of dollars. Of course, she spends everything on hotels and parties and ends up being banged in 2017. During her trial, Anna continued her little game of appearances by paying a stylist to dress her in luxury clothes, which does not did not prevent her from being sentenced to 4 years in prison and 250,000 dollars in reimbursement to the victims. But Anna is not stupid, so she negotiated the rights to her story with Netflix, which allowed her to find her way around money. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see the series to have all the details of the case.
3. Tania Head the Survivor
On September 11, 2001, two planes crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. Soon after, surviving victims come together in support groups. Tania Head is one of them. She even became president of one of the groups and multiplied appearances in the media to testify and tell her story, or pose alongside the mayor of New York for the inauguration of the Tribute WTC Visitor Center in 2005. But if I speak to you of Tania Head here, you can imagine that there is a problem. The catch is that Tania Head was never one of the victims of 9/11. Worse still, she was not even in the United States at the time of the tragedy but in Barcelona. Little by little the elements of her testimonies began to ring false, details did not stick, and Tania ended up being unmasked in 2007 by a Barcelona newspaper which was able to prove that she was in class in Barcelona during the attacks. After that, Tania Head made believe that she had committed suicide, which was still false. I hope she has found a good shrink since then.
4. The fake bouillon cube princess
In 2019, two women pretend to be a princess of the United Arab Emirates and her servant in the Hermel jewelry store in Paris. The fake princess pretends to want to buy several jewels from the seller and has them placed in a box, announcing that her husband will take care of the transfer. The false prince then makes several phone calls to the saleswoman to divert her attention, while the false princess replaces the case filled with jewels with another filled with Maggi bouillon cubes. Yes yes, really. Result, the saleswoman, who does not re-check the contents of the box, sees nothing but fire and the jewelry finds herself relieved of 1.3 million euros of jewelry. Finally, the scammers and their accomplice were caught by the police, but we must admit that it was genius.
5. Laura Albert aka Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy
In 2000, a book entitled Sarah, written by a mysterious JT LeRoy, is a hit. The book is an autobiography that traces the story of Jeremiah T. LeRoy, a young HIV-positive boy, heroin addict, transvestite and prostitute, who grew up with abusive parents. Inevitably, a story like that, it made a lot of talk. The small problem is that JT LeRoy did not exist and that the real author of the book was Laura Albert, a pink telephone operator with a bit of a mythomaniac. And this dear Laura began to be taken in at her own game since, JT LeRoy became famous, everyone asked to see the author in person. She then asked her sister-in-law Savannah Knoop, with an androgine physique, to play her role in the media and pretend to be in the process of making a physical transition to have a woman’s body. The deception lasted a while, then the New York Times revealed the pot-aux-roses to the whole world. It was the fall for Laura Albert, who had become a plague victim. A little less hard for Savannah Knoop who published her memoirs and wrote the screenplay for the film Jeremiah Terminator LeRoy. Some land better on their feet than others.
6. Rose Marks and her crystal ball
In the early 2010s, Rose Marks was convicted of extorting at least $25 million from her victims. His thing, this lady in her sixties? Foresight. She chose desperate people and made them believe that their problems would be solved if they sent her large sums of money. And she was gifted: one of the victims still went so far as to spin her 17 million. If ever a customer wanted his money back because his predictions hadn’t come true, she would tell him that his money had burned in the attacks of September 11, 2001 or that only the Archangel Michael knew where it was. In short, the girl was not lacking in audacity. In any case, his little business made him take 10 years behind bars. She should perhaps have calmed down on the sums demanded from the customers.
7. Joan of Valois and the Queen’s Necklace Affair
Born in 1756, Jeanne de Valois was the daughter of a soldier father and a mother who was a prostitute. The father was of distant noble descent, but the family was extremely poor. As an adult, Jeanne married a guy from the lower nobility, but still too poor to support herself. Too bad, Jeanne decides to take her destiny into her own hands. Around 1783, she showed up at Versailles and succeeded in having herself presented as a true noblewoman, then became friends with a cardinal who was struggling to return to Marie-Antoinette’s graces. There, Jeanne de Valois discovers a way to make money (be careful, it’s a bit complicated). Basically, a jeweler wanted to sell an overpriced necklace to Louis XVI, but the king didn’t want to because he found it too expensive, especially since the country was in a bad financial situation. Jeanne de Valois then made a fake letter signed Marie-Antoinette which told the jeweler that she was going to buy the necklace anyway despite the king’s negative response. Then she wrote another forged letter, still signed Marie-Antoinette, to ask the cardinal to advance the money if he wanted to return to his graces. The cardinal accepted, and Jeanne arranged an appointment for him with a lookalike of Marie-Antoinette to whom he spun the money without realizing anything. It’s crazy, but it worked. Well, afterwards, Jeanne de Valois was arrested, they branded her with the V for “thief” with a hot iron, and they imprisoned her. But still, it was clever.