During the course of the 2010s, I came across two con artists. One thing that united them was they were men. But they could not have been more different: one was rather elaborate and was the subject of a Panorama documentary; the other was a rank amateur and, at least in the situation we were in, never fooled us.
I won’t name them as I’ve no wish to add to their notoriety, but here’s the real kicker: both had the means to do well legitimately if they each followed through honestly.
The first one was clever enough to rope in people from very different parts, essentially setting up a publishing operation. But it was a swindle, and people were left in debt and jobless.
However, if it had been legit, it would have actually done quite well, and if the con artist’s aim was money, then he would have made some, over a long period, which would have sustained him and his lifestyle.
The second was not clever but came to a business partner of mine with a proposal to become a shareholder. We heard him out, he proposed an amount, and we drafted a cast-iron contract that could see him get a return on his investment, and protect the original principal. The money never came, of course, and we weren’t going to alter the share register without it. He might have hoped that we would.
Again, he would have got something from it. Maybe not as good a return as property but better than the bank.
The first is now serving time at Her Majesty’s pleasure after things caught up with him and he was extradited to where he had executed an earlier con; the second, after having had his face in the Sunday Star–Times, was last heard from in Australia where he conned his own relatives. He’s wanted by the police here.
I don’t know where the gratification is here. And rationally, leaving honesty and morals aside (as they do), wouldn’t it be better making money regularly than swindling for a quick fix that nets you less? Is it down to laziness, making them less desirous to follow through?
On the first case, I did have the occasion to speak to one lawyer pursuing him. I asked him about my case, since my financial loss was relatively small compared to the others taken in (namely a FedEx bill that a friend of mine helped me get a decent discount on because of her job). Where’s the con? I was told that it might not have been apparent as the con artist’s MO was to draw different strands, sometimes having them result in something, and sometimes not.
Whatever the technique, it failed him anyway.
And what a waste of all that energy to create something that not only looked legit (as in the TV series Hustle) but could have functioned legitimately with so many good people involved.
That did make the 2010s rather better than the 2000s when the shady characters included a pædophile (who, to my knowledge, is also doing time), a sociopath, a forger, and a US fashion label that conned a big shipment’s payment out of us. I doubt I’d be famous enough to warrant a biography but they would make interesting stories!