Born in 1785, French Anthelme Collet visited, in 1812, the Spanish region of Valencia with the fake title, name, and position of Count Carlos Alexandre de Borromeu, general inspector of Napoleon Bonaparte’s army in Iberian Peninsula. Displaying several medals on his chest, he presented a false document forged by himself. He said he was required to reorganize the army in Cataluña. Majestic, with airs and graces, the swindler was delighted to see the troops parading in homage to him. Before leaving Valencia, he got hold of twenty-thousand francs, requested from the regiment’s safe.
In Avignon, the “city of popes”, the fraudster managed to put his hands on one hundred and fifteen thousand francs, recurring to the same process.
Anthelme Collet, always boasting the title of count, fake names and positions, could enjoy the luxury of having honor guards and listened to the epic sounds of military bands, and people’s praises.
In Montpellier, the city of the notorious university and the splendid gothic cathedral, he presided a feast in his homage, in which the applauses echoed as thunders. All of a sudden, a police force entered the place and arrested him. General astonishment. Taken to the city hall, the trickster stayed in the kitchen, instead of being arrested at a cell, and did not think twice before escaping as a cook.
In his Memories, written in prison, this deceiver tells he had been a soldier, marquis, Army officer, typographer, monsignor, Napolitano priest, and even a police officer from Dordogne, Southeastern France department.
Convicted to serve twenty years of compulsory labor, Anthelme Collet died in 1840, during Louis Philippe time, the “bourgeois king”.
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Dear reader, now I will introduce you to charlatan Don Jaime Addison de Peralta-Reavis, who in the year of 1888, called himself Baron of Arizonaca and Caballero de Los Colorados. In fact, his name was Jim Reavis. He showed up in Phoenix, capital city of the American state of Arizona. He claimed to be the legitimate owner of a land measuring ten thousand acres, where farms, copper, gold, and silver mines, and Southern Pacific railways were located.
This rogue, former coachman in Missouri, eager to piss in gold chamber pot, produced fake documents that revealed simply this: a vast extension of land had been donated to his ancestors in 1748, by King Ferdinand VI of Spain. The rascal was aware that according to the Gadsden Agreement and the treatise of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the United States’ government was obliged to acknowledge the property right and bonds of the acquired territories.
Master at the art of documents falsification, the former coachman earned millions of dollars due to agreements to properties re-purchase. However, thanks to the efforts of the journalist Tom Weedin, from the journal Gazzette in Florence, Arizona State, the fraud was discovered. Jim Reavis, convicted, entered Santa Fe Penitentiary in New Mexico State.
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Admire, after Jim, the Scotsman Arthur Ferguson’s natural guile, gifted with an ingenious ability to convince the incautious. He was, in a certain sunny morning in the 1920’s, at Londoner Trafalgar Square, at a short distance from Lord Nelson’s statue, placed over a 50 meter-high column. Then he saw a wealthy American from Idaho contemplating the statue. Arthur pretended to the square guide and lamented near the American man:
“What a shame! This monument will have to be sold, along with the four lions made by sculptor Edwin Landseer, due to England’s debts!”
He informed that the government had assigned him the uncomfortable mission of negotiating the sale of the most famous character of British navy’s statue.
“For how much?” –inquired the millionaire.
“Only six thousand pounds.” –the trickster answered with a sad expression.
In an open way, the American asked him for priority. Ferguson said he would telephone his boss, in the sales department. He walked away, and when he was back, he assured:
“The government agreed.”
Before taking the simple man’s check, he handed him the name and address of the company in charge of disassembling and sending the statue to the United States.
Short time later, the victim found out, through Scotland Yard, that he had been fooled…
Arthur Ferguson made other victims in London: an American man paid him a thousand pounds for the Big Ben, the big bell from Westminster Palace, and a third one paid him two thousand pounds for the main building of British Monarchy, the Buckingham Palace.
Afraid of being caught by Scotland Yard, Ferguson boarded to the United States in a hurry. In Washington, he rented to a cattle raiser for the period of 99 years, for one hundred thousand dollars, the White House. And at meeting an Australian man from Sidney, he offered to sell the Statue of Liberty, because the New York Port, he explained, had to be broadened and the monument removed. The guy accepts the deal. As the money coming from Australia took long to arrive, Ferguson got impatient, causing suspicion to the son of the kangaroos’ country.
Arrested in 1930, the cheater served only five years in prison. He died in 1938.
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Rival to this Scotsman in the art of cheating, the false worker of French Ministry responsible for the preservation of public buildings, “count” Victor Lustig, born in Bohemia in 1890 and dead in 1947, he stimulated five scrap metal traders to “buy” the Eiffel Tower, 320 meters high. The swindler’s argument: it needed to be put down, because its preservation would be too expensive. The buyer’s advantage: the tower was made of ten thousand tons of excellent iron.
André Poísson, a rich entrepreneur, “buys” the tower. The “count” grabs the check with the bulky amount and his suitcase filled with francs. Quickly, Victor Lustig cashes the check and runs away to Vienna, along with his accomplice, the thief Dan Collins. They were never caught…
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How about us, Brazilians? Have we got a swindler superior to all of these? Yes, really superior is Paulo Coelho, because none of the others could make it rain, the wind blow, and become invisible as Paulito Coelhito declared to be capable of, on an interview to Playboy magazine (issue 27, October 1992). Thousands of fools believe in this fib, and delight in it. A liar can always find, no matter where he goes, complete retards to admire him.
Another superiority of our trickster: he has never been arrested, as it happened o Anthelme Collet, Dom Jaime Addison de Peralta-Reavis, and Arthur Ferguson… Wow! How lucky Paulito is!