List of con artists

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This is a list of notable individuals who exploited confidence tricks.

Born in the 18th century or earlier[edit]

  • William Chaloner (1650s/1665 – 1699): Serial counterfeiter and confidence trickster proven guilty by Sir Isaac Newton[1]
  • Gregor MacGregor (1786–1845): Scottish con man who tried to attract investment and settlers for the non-existent country of "Poyais"[2]

Born or active in the 19th century[edit]

Born or active in the 20th century[edit]

Living people[edit]

  • Frank Abagnale (1948): U.S. check forger and impostor; his autobiography was made into the movie Catch Me If You Can[14]
  • Sergio Cragnotti (1940): Former Italian industrialist and president of a football team who masterminded the Cirio bankruptcy.
  • Ali Dia (1965): Senegalese semi-professional football (soccer) player, posed as a cousin of World Player of The Year George Weah in a phone call to Graeme Souness, the manager of Premier League team Southampton. Souness was duped into signing Dia however his performance in a match led the club to believe that Dia wasn't who he said he was.[15]
  • Marc Dreier (1950): Founder of attorney firm Dreier LLP. Convicted of selling approximately $700 million worth of fictitious promissory notes, and other crimes.[16]
  • Kevin Foster (1958/59): British investment fraudster, convicted of running a Ponzi scheme.[17]
  • Robert Hendy-Freegard (1971): Briton who kidnapped people by impersonating an MI5 agent and conned them out of money.[18]
  • James Arthur Hogue (1959): U.S. impostor who most famously entered Princeton University by posing as a self-taught orphan[19]
  • Sante Kimes: Convicted of fraud, robbery, murder, and over 100 other crimes [20]
  • Steven Kunes (1956): Former television screenwriter convicted for forgery, grand theft, and false use of financial information.[21] He attempted to sell a faked interview with J. D. Salinger to People magazine.[22][23]
  • Bernard Madoff (1938): Former American stock broker and non-executive chairman of the NASDAQ stock market who admitted to the operation of the largest Ponzi scheme in history.[24]
  • Matt the Knife (1981): American-born con artist, card cheat and pickpocket who, from the ages of approximately 14 through 21, bilked dozens of casinos, corporations and at least one Mafia crime family.[25][26][27]
  • Barry Minkow (1967): Known for the ZZZZ Best scam.[28]
  • Richard Allen Minsky (1944): Scammed female victims for sex by pretending to be jailed family members over the phone.[29]
  • Lou Pearlman (1954): Former boy band impresario, convicted for perpetrating a large and long-running Ponzi scheme.[30]
  • Steven Jay Russell (1957): Georgia police officer who impersonated several individuals to escape from a Texas prison; embezzled from the North American Medical Management corporation. Pretended to be dying from AIDS to transfer out of prison, only to be caught after appealing his partner Phillip Morris' jail sentence. Inspired a movie titled: "I Love You Phillip Morris" [31]
  • Calisto Tanzi (1938): Former Italian industrialist and president of Parmalat, which he led to one of the costliest bankruptcies in history.
  • Kevin Trudeau (1963): US writer and billiards promoter, convicted of fraud and larceny, known for late-night infomercials and books about "Natural Cures 'They' Don't Want You to Know About".[32][33][34]
  • Alessandro Zarrelli (1984): Faxed clubs in Great Britain posing as an Italian FA official who was offering a young professional player (himself) for a cultural exchange loan. Made a short term deal with one club and trained with several more before being caught by a Sky TV documentary team.[35]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; Paul Hopkins and Stuart Handley, 'Chaloner, William (d. 1699)'
  2. ^ "Document of the Month January 2005". The Scottish Executive. January 2005. Retrieved 19 August 2007. 
  3. ^ a b Maurer, David W. (1940). The Big Con: The Story of the Confidence Man and the Confidence Game. Bobbs Merrill. OCLC 1446571. 
  4. ^ Byrnes, Thomas (1886), Professional Criminals of America, New York: Cassell & Company, pp. 200–201 .
  5. ^ Jay, Ricky (February 2011), "Grifters, Bunco Artists & Flimflam Men", Wired 19 (2): 92 .
  6. ^ Johnson, James F.; Miller, Floyd (1961). The Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower. Doubleday. 
  7. ^ Cohen, Gabriel (27 November 2005). "For You, Half Price". The New York Times. Retrieved 19 August 2007. 
  8. ^ Zuckoff, Mitchell (March 8, 2005). Ponzi's Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend. Random House. ISBN 1-4000-6039-7. 
  9. ^ Smith, Jeff (2009). Alias Soapy Smith: The Life and Death of a Scoundrel, Klondike Research. ISBN 0-9819743-0-9
  10. ^ "Arrest of the Confidence Man". New York Herald. 1849. Retrieved 19 August 2007. 
  11. ^ Weil, Joseph (1948). "Yellow Kid" Weil: The Autobiography of America's Master Swindler. Ziff-Davis. ISBN 0-7812-8661-1. 
  12. ^ "The Fund Industry's Black Eye". Brian Trumbore, 2002-04-19. Retrieved 19 August 2007. 
  13. ^ "Natwarlal leaves ’em guessing even in death". Hindustan Times. 29 July 2009. Retrieved 3 August 2012. 
  14. ^ Frank W. Abagnale Jr.; Stan Redding (1980). Catch Me if You Can. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-671-64091-7. 
  15. ^ Gibbs, Thom (7 February 2011). "Five terrible debuts to make Fernando Torres feel better". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  16. ^ "N.Y. lawyer arraigned in alleged $700M fraud". March 19, 2009. Retrieved 2011-02-14. 
  17. ^ "KF Concept £34 million Ponzi scheme organiser convicted". Serious Fraud Office. 9 March 2010. Retrieved 7 July 2011. 
  18. ^ "Fake spy guilty of kidnapping con". BBC. 2005-06-23. Retrieved 19 August 2007. 
  19. ^ "Princeton 'Student' Gets Jail Sentence". The New York Times. 1992-10-25. Retrieved 19 August 2007. 
  20. ^ "Life Terms For Pair ''The New York Times, 3/22/2005''". Los Angeles (Calif); New York City: New York Times. 2005-03-22. Retrieved 2011-04-10. 
  21. ^ Hayden, Tyler (31 March 2011). "A Tale Stranger Than Fiction". Santa Barbara Independent. Retrieved 4 August 2014. 
  22. ^ Associated Press "Lawsuit by Salinger muzzles his imitator" Ottawa Citizen November 5, 1982, p. 65, col. 1
  23. ^ "J.D. Salinger in Accord On Impersonation Suit". The New York Times. 6 November 1982. 
  24. ^ "Madoff Confessed $50 Billion Fraud Before FBI Arrest". Bloomberg. 2008-12-12. Retrieved 26 August 2010. 
  25. ^ "American Voices". American Voices. October 12, 2008.
  26. ^ Schwartz, Dan (August 2007). "From Grifter To Guinness". Providence Monthly: 14. 
  27. ^ Perry, Rachel (January 17, 2007). "Matt The Knife: Fire-Teething Never Looked So Good". Play (Philadelphia Edition): 10–12. 
  28. ^ Leung, Rebecca (May 22, 2005). "It Takes One To Know One". 60 Minutes.
  29. ^ Gorman, Anna (2001-12-01). "Rapist in Sex Scam Case Sentenced to Life in Prison". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-06-27. 
  30. ^ Liston, Barbara (2008-05-21). "Boy band mogul Pearlman sentenced to 25 years". Reuters. Retrieved 2009-04-09. 
  31. ^ "Master Manipulator". Texas Observer. 2003-07-03. Retrieved 19 August 2007. 
  32. ^ John Stossel; Glenn Ruppel; Frank Mastropolo (January 20, 2006). "King Con -- Selling Questionable Cures?". Retrieved 2011-02-14. 
  33. ^ Warner, Melanie (August 28, 2005). "After Jail and More, Salesman Scores Big With Cure-All Book". New York Times. 
  34. ^ "FTC: Marketer Kevin Trudeau Violated Prior Court Order". Federal Trade Commission. September 14, 2007. Retrieved 2011-02-14. 
  35. ^ "Alert over Italian soccer 'star'". BBC News. 10 October 2005.