Feature – Succesful Imposters

The Blu-ray and DVD release of Headhunters is right around the corner, and as we look forward to  watching headhunter Roger stealthily steal art in an effort to maintain his costly lifestyle, we want to take a look back at some of the most successful imposters in history.

Eduardo de Valfierno
This Argentine con man is famous for stealing the Mona Lisa in 1911. Before he paid some workers at the museum to steal the painting, he hired a man to make six copies of the painting, and shipped the copies to six buyers– who each thought they were buying the real thing. When the painting was stolen, Valfierno disappeared with his money, and the hired man who actually stole the painting got caught trying to sell it.

Charles Ponzi
Ponzi is one of the greatest imposters in American history as he scammed millions of people in the 1920s. He collected more than 15 million dollars by promising eager and naive people that he will double their investments in 90 days. He would pay off the previous investors with money from new investors, until the whole structure fell apart when the amount of outgoing cash surpassed the amount of incoming cash.

Victor Lustig
Lustig is best known as the “man who sold the Eiffel Tower.” In 1925, he pretended to be a French government official and forged government credentials as he met with scrap metal dealers to pitch the idea that the Eiffel Tower was for sale. As he told them that the city wanted to sell the tower for scrap, one dealer bought the story and gave Lustig cash. When the buyer found out that he was scammed, he was too embarrassed to complain to the police.

Frank William Abagnale
As one of the most famous imposters ever, Abagnale became notorious in the 1960s for forging millions of dollars worth of checks across 26 countries over a five year span. He even managed to take on multiple identities as a lawyer, teacher, doctor, attorney and Pan Am pilot– without any training, qualifications or experience- all before he was 21-years-old.

James Hogue
In 1988, Hogue enrolled at the prestigious Princeton University claiming to be Alexi Indris Santana, a self-taught orphan from Utah. He wrote in his application that he had slept outside in the Grand Canyon, raising sheep and reading books. For the next two years he lived as Santana and as a member of the track team and Ivy Club. He was possibly the first high profile teen imposter.

Bernard “Bernie” Madoff
Bernie Madoff is among the most recent imposters who have pulled off the Ponzi scheme. Claiming he began in 1990, he managed to steal over 65 million dollars from his investors through his Wall Street firm, Madoff Investment Securities. He has about 9 thousand victims, some of whom were left poor because of this fraud.

Robert Hendy-Freegard
Posing as a MI5 agent, this imposter fooled several people to go underground for fear of assassination by IRA. In 1992 told three college students that he was undercover and investigating an Irish Republican Army cell in the school and he needed their help. After having them perform tasks to prove their loyalty, he claimed that his “cover was blown.” He told them they all had to go into hiding and cut all family ties because they were in danger, so the three students spent five months in a Sheffield flat.

Christophe Rocancourt
Rocancourt’s notorious scam began in the Hamptons, where he posed as a distant member of the Rockefeller family. Wealthy people flocked to him, wanting him to invest their money for them. He agreed and pretended that he could double everyone’s money in less than two weeks—of course, needing a little cash advance first. He pocketed the money and fled to Canada.

Ferdinand Demara
Known as “the Great Impostor,” Demara pretended to be as many people from monks to surgeons to prison wardens. His most famous scam was when he posed as surgeon Joseph Cyr on a Canadian Navy destroyer during the Korean War. He somehow was able to wing several successful surgeries and ward off infection with ample amounts of penicillin.

Make sure you check out Roger Brown’s double life in Headhunters – on Blu-ray and DVD August 13th.

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About paul devine

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The founder of The People's Movies, started the site 20th November 2008.The site has excelled past all expectations with many only giving the site months and it's still going strong. A lover of French Thrillers, Post Apocalyptic films, Asian cinema. 2009 started Cinehouse to start his 'cinema education' learning their is life outside mainstream cinema. Outside of film, love to travel with Sorrento, Guangzhou and Manchester all favourite destinations.Musically loves David Bowie, Fishbone, Radiohead.