When you read the stories of con artists, it is bizarre to think how easily they manipulated unsuspecting people and swindled millions of dollars by simply lying (relentlessly though). Here are some of the frauds whose exploits have been documented in great detail. Read on.

1. Charles Ponzi

You must have heard of the phrase ‘Ponzi scheme’. Yeah, it is named after this guy. Ponzi was a migrant from Italy who came to the US in the early 1900s. Here, he hustled hard and secured a job at a bank. Following this, his illegal activities started but were limited to cheque fraud, etc. He also served some time in jail, and that is where he came up with this fake scheme where if you put in a certain amount of money, he promised to make you a multimillionaire in no time.


Of course, that never happened, and all the money went straight into his pocket. He would simply pay back old investors, some of them, the original sum they had deposited but no interest. That was all his. The guy managed to rake up enough money to buy a 12-house mansion and several cars. He was ultimately told on by his media manager and was later deported to Italy where he died with little to no money. 


2. Sylvia Browne

This woman claimed that she could talk to God and could see the events of the past and those of the future (wonder where we have heard that before). She would charge $850 for half an hour of sitting, but what really got her attention was her interactions with the parents of missing children. She would tell them where their kids were, and obviously, all of it was made up. However, by the time anyone could verify that information, it was too late and she had kept all the money.


She was charged with theft and fraud, but never stepped foot in jail. She is very popular even now. On a side note, and I can’t believe I need to reiterate this, no one can talk to God, so.

The Mercury News

3. Natwarlal

You must have heard people addressing someone as ‘Natwarlal’ when they try to be too smart or notorious. Well, there is a reason for that. An actual person named Natwarlal ‘sold’ the Taj Mahal and Rashtrapati Bhavan several times. He was also involved in forgery but people in his native village in Bihar looked at him as Robin Hood who would take from the rich and give to the poor.

The Times of India

He truly did try to help out the poor, sometimes by giving away cash, no questions asked. He’d always vanish though – as he’d vanish from jails. His escapades are widely discussed. He once escaped the jail posing as a senior police official.

The last time anyone heard of him, was in 1996 when at 84 years of age, he was being taken from jail to AIIMS for treatment. He allegedly fled from the New Delhi railway station in a wheelchair.

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4. Victor Lustig

Natwarlal may have taken inspiration from Victor Lustig who again ‘sold’ the Eiffel Tower to wealthy individuals, two times. In 1925, the repair work of the Eiffel Tower was proving to be very expensive for France and people would often say that it would be best to get rid of it. Victor used this information to fool the rich. 

Bonjour Paris

He pulled off the trick once and knew that the businessman would be too shy to report, lest he brings bad light to his own name. Victor was correct, no reports were made, and so he returned and repeated the entire process again. He died in 1947 in jail due to pneumonia. 


5. Anna Sorokin

Anna is a con artist who swindled money by being a part of the circuit she was looting. A lot of her exploits were based on lies and manipulation, so she managed to escape legal trouble on those fronts. However, she had done enough forgery and cheating to still serve time in jail. 


Anna always claims that everything she did was for her dream to build an art gallery and that money was not her motivation. She got close to securing capital from banks for her project but was turned in by her friend Rachel. She was released from jail in 2021. 


6. Elizabeth Holmes

Elizabeth Holmes was a student of Stanford University and came up with the idea of inventing a chip that could tell essentially predict infections, etc by taking vitals from the body. Obviously, it was not possible to make such a device, as she was told by her professor.


However, Elizabeth was driven and she dropped out of college to start her own company. Now, this would have made for a great success story, except, Elizabeth’s device actually did not work. She produced fake blood tests and what not to secure billions of dollars in investment and got insane media coverage. Ironically, her lies came out in the public also through media reports but she continues to fascinate people in the entertainment business. 

Business Insider

7. Simon Leviev

To say he is the biggest conman in history might be a bit of a stretch but there is a Netflix show about him, which means he really is up there. Simon Leviev is from Israel and he used to swindle money off of his matches on Tinder. He used to make women fall in love with him and then take loans for him by saying that he is in the diamond business and is being chased by enemies who would track him down if he used his own cards.


Leviev was ultimately turned in by one of his girlfriends, but after spending a brief amount of jail, was released by the police. He lives in Israel now, and seems to be enjoying his rich life.

The Independent

8. Robert Hendy-Freegard

This guy was truly evil. He’d tell people that he was an MI5 agent and asked them to go undercover with him. He would tell them to do all sorts of bizarre things by inducing fear in their hearts that they too would be killed just by virtue of knowing him. He made them cut off from their families and friends, and in the end, would take all their money.

The victims, who were desperate to get out of this fake dangerous situation, would give him all they had. He was first arrested in 2002, but has been a free man since 2009 and lives in France now.


9. William Thompson

Also known as the ‘confidence man’, Thompson operated in the 1840s. He would simply approach the rich people in New York and upon gaining their ‘confidence’ would ask them for a valuable item, possibly as a proof of friendship. These people would lend things to him and Thompson would flee away with them.

The ‘confidence man’ gave birth to the phrase ‘con artist’ – ‘con’ coming from ‘confidence’. Talk about a malicious legacy.

Today I Found Out

10. Frank Abagnale

Frank Abagnale was involved in criminal activities from an early age when he used his father’s credit card to buy items at gas stores. except, he would return the items after buying and ask the employees to hand him equivalent cash. This way, no one was at loss, except, of course, his father. He swindled thousands of dollars this way and later turned into an automobile thief who was also involved in fraud.

He is said to have been a fake pilot who flew regularly. He conned people at the airports, too. His life story was turned into the popular movie Catch Me If You Can, which is based on his biography of the same name.


These were some of the most infamous con artists, but the list is practically endless. There has been a lot of lying and cheating in the world.

Check out – Famous Con Artists