World's 5 Smartest Con Artists

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World's 5 Smartest Con Artists - as part of the news series by GeoBeats.

Con artists come in all varieties - from the ones who sell you world famous landmarks to others who take away your retirement funds with a smile. Here are 5 of the world's greatest con artists:

Number 5 is Frank Abagnale, a former con man who cashed phony checks worth $2.5 million in every US state and in 26 countries. In addition, he impersonated as a pilot, a college professor, an attorney, and a doctor. Steven Spielberg’s film, Catch Me If You Can, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks is based on Abagnale's life story. After serving a prison time of 5 years, he has been working with the FBI on combating check forgery for almost 35 years now.

Number 4 - Victor Lustig. Born in Austria-Hungary, his first con involved selling a fake 'money box' which could print $100 bills. He was able to fool the rich and wealthy into buying the box for a price as high as $10,000, sometimes even more. In 1925, Victor was even able to sell the Eiffel Tower to a French scrap dealer for $70,000.

Number 3 - Gregor MacGregor posed as the ruler of a fictitious country in Central America called Poyais. He was able to convince investors and immigrants into buying land in his imaginary country. Gregor backed up his story with a guidebook containing details on Poyais. Between 1822 and 1833, over 200 settlers sailed for Poyais, only to discover that it was nothing but a fake country.

Number 2 - George C. Parker. This con man made his living by selling New York landmarks such as the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Interestingly, he was able to sell Brooklyn Bridge twice. Parker convinced his potential buyers into buying the landmarks by producing impressive replicas of legitimate documents.

Number 1 - Bernie Madoff - Madoff was an eminent figure in the security industry who also served as the vice chairman of NASD. It turned out he orchestrated one of the largest ponzi schemes ever, costing many large firms and thousands of individual investors $50 billion in total. According to SEC, “Madoff's investors’ phony account statements showed moderate, but consistently positive returns — even during turbulent market conditions”. He is currently serving a prison sentence of 150 years.

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