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Friday, March 25, 2011

Con Artist

Victor Lustig
Victor was born in Bohemia in 1890. He is famed for selling the Eiffel Tower! He moved to Paris where he was able flourish as a con artist. Victor had with him a machine that would be able to print $100 bills. The machine had one shortcoming though. It would only print and churn one dollar bill in every six hours. The public was enthusiastic and many people paid up to $30,000 for the device. He had everything worked out as the device was stashed with 2 genuine $100 bills. The system would then emit blank papers after. Before the unsuspecting buyers knew, lustig was long gone with the loot.


Eiffel Tower remains the most memorable con ‘achievement’ by Lustig. The Second World War had crippled France economy and the upkeep of the Eiffel Tower was proving unbearable to the city of Paris. With that in mind, Lustig forged government identification. He then went ahead to invite six metal dealers for a meeting in a hotel. Lustig explained to the unsuspecting scrap metal dealers the importance of the meeting and why it should remain top secret. He made the six believe that since the City could not be able to meet the maintenance of the Tower it was to be sold as scrap. The rider was that they should remain mum, to avoid an outcry from the public who would be opposed to the removal of the tower.
Lustig took the dealers on a tour of the tower and one of the investor, Andre Poisson was convinced it was a legitimate deal and paid the money to the con artist. The embarrassment was enormous when the investor discovered he had been tricked and never reported to the police.
After a month had elapsed, Lustig went back to Paris to try his luck again but he wasn’t second time lucky. The police were alerted but he managed to escape.
Through deception he managed to get a cool $5,000 from Al Capone. He had worked out an investment plan with Capone, with the later parting with $50,000. There was no investment as Lustig was to store the money in a vault for two months. He was to return the same amount to Capone after two months with an explanation that the deal had not gone through. Al was so impressed by his honesty that he gave him the $5,000. In 1934 things turned for the worse. He was arrested and was found guilty for counterfeiting in the subsequent judgment and sentenced in Alcatraz for 20 years. He was not to see freedom again as he died of pneumonia while in Springfield jail, Missouri in 1947.
George Parker
When it comes to daring con artist, George probably tops the list. This man earned his daily bread through selling New York landmarks to gullible tourists. The Brooklyn Bridge was his favorite asset as he was able to sell it twice weekly for years. He convinced the buyers that they would make fortunes by controlling the roadway access. Of course many believed him and the police had a rough time removing toll barriers erected by ‘owners’ of the bridge.
George Parker was born in 1870 and died in 1936 after swindling unsuspecting victims from his con game. These are other landmarks that he managed to sell: Statue of Liberty, Madison Square Garden, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Grant’s Tomb. To make his activities look genuine, George would play the part. When selling the Grant’s Tomb he came across as the general’s grandson. He set up a real estate office handle his scams. He had near perfect fake documentations to prove his ownership of the properties he was marketing and selling.
In December 17th, 1928, George was convicted for life at Sing Sing prison. He was a very popular figure behind bars with the prison warders and fellow prisoners enjoying hearing his exploits as a conman. George went down history books as one of the most successful conmen in the history of the United States.
Eduardo de Valfierno
The theft of Mona Lisa by Eduardo de Valfierno is what blockbuster movies are made of. This man, who preferred to be known as Marquies masterminded the theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre after enlisting people with different talents including Vincenzo Peruggia, a museum staff. The work of art found its way out of the museum on August 21, 1911, when Eduardo tucked it under his coat and walked with the treasured piece out of the building.


Every details was worked out way before the heist. Valfierno used the services of Yves Chaudron, a French art restorer as well as a forger par excellence, to make six replicas of the Mona Lisa. The precious pieces were shipped to different destination where Valfierno had ready buyers. He was aware that it would be difficult to smuggle the Mona Lisa copies past customs after the robbery. After the heist the replica were delivered to the buyers believing they were the stolen work of art. Since Valfierno intention was to sell the forgeries, and he needed the original to dupe the buyers to believe he was selling the real deal. After he had accomplished his mission he returned the original to Perrugia who was caught trying to sell it. The original Mona Lisa was returned to Louvre in 1913.

Joseph Weil
Joseph Weil aka Yellow Kid was born in 1877 and died in 1975. At the height of his ‘career’, Joseph was able to swindle nearly $8 million. When Weil was working as a collector, he blackmailed his co-workers to part with some of their collections after he realized they were not submitting the whole amount. The culprits would give him a small amount with the understanding that he wouldn’t report them.


He had motley of other tricks that he unleashed to the na├»ve public with abandon. He masqueraded as a geologist of a big oil company fleecing his gullible hosts’ large sums in the guise of investing in gas. With ease, he would be Dr. Henri Reuel or a director of a company issuing land to trusting believers who would end up losing money through abstract fees and recording. At one time he was an accomplished chemist who was able to double bills. He made away with the amount once police showed up.
Weil attests in his autobiography that crime would go drastically down if people leant that you cannot gain something for nothing. Wisdom from a con artist who left many in misery by is exploits.

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