Scams, Scandals, and What Drives Them All


No one wants to find themselves embroiled in a scam or scandal. But when it comes to reading about them, who can resist? In today’s Summer Fridays, we’re traveling inside the minds of con artists, grifters, victims, and the (mostly) exonerated. Ready for a trip?

Maybe She Had So Much Money She Just Lost Track of It
Jessica Pressler,The Cut
The story of New York City’s most notorious faux heiress-turned-inmate, Anna Delvey, and the wild antics that won her intrigue—and tens of thousands of dollars.

Secret Life of a Con Man
Dustin Grinnell, Narratively
The son of a bank robber and sibling of a psychopath explains how he found his own calling scamming a litany of unsuspecting suckers.

Psychopathic, Narcissistic Machiavellians
Maria Konnikova, Slate
Are con artists clinical psychopaths—or are they just slightly more devious versions of our more conniving selves?

The Grand Schemes of the Petty Grifter
Guy Lawson, GQ
That old adage that you can be anything you want? Well, Jeremy Wilson has lived it for years, crisscrossing the country and inventing new identities. A war hero, an MIT grad, a Hollywood journalist, an IRA operative—Jeremy has claimed to be all those things and more. And oh, what a mess he’s made.

“He Actually Believes He Is Khalid”: The Amazing 30-Year Odyssey of a Counterfeit Saudi Prince
Mark Seal, Vanity Fair
Investors all over the world fell for the schemes of the man who called himself Khalid bin al-Saud. But the truth turned out to be more incredible than the lie.

America’s Most Admired Lawbreaker
Steven Brill, Highline
Over the course of 20 years, Johnson & Johnson created a powerful drug, promoted it illegally to children and the elderly, covered up the side effects and made billions of dollars. This is the inside story.

How to Put a Fake Island on the Map
Genevieve Carlton, Atlas Obscura
Frisland never existed, but for centuries, people wanted to believe that it did.

The College-Admissions Scandal and the Banality of Scamming
Naomi Fry, The New Yorker
These stories allow us to vicariously live out our worst urges, but they also present us with open-and-shut arcs that show crime doesn’t pay (in a world that, more often than not, suggests that it does).


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