The 6 Most Impressive Cases of Identity Theft Ever Pulled Off
Impersonation and identity theft are no laughing matter. Except when it's a horse wearing a top hat trying to be people. That's goddamn hilarious. Also, in the cases below.
NASA Gets Fooled by the Astro-Not
NASA wants you to know that being an astronaut is hard. It takes incredible intelligence, amazing physical conditioning and a strong psyche. Only a chosen few ever qualify.
Do you feel lucky?
Something you'd think NASA would be aware of when some random doofus calls them and claims to be one, but maybe commercial airline pilot Jerry Alan Whittredge was just very convincing.
After claiming to be a CIA agent with the Congressional Medal of Honor AND a member of the next shuttle mission, Whittredge convinced the folks at the Space Center in Alabama to give him an exclusive tour.
To be fair, he was wearing an appropriate costume.
Come on, NASA has rocket science and crap to work on! You can't expect these highly educated people, some of the most intelligent on Earth, to check resumes before handing over classified information about the shuttle's propulsion system to some schmuck they don't know. And while they're at it, you can't expect them to NOT let an unqualified stranger sit at Mission Control during a shuttle mission.
But Jerry wasn't just satisfied with hoodwinking NASA. He also convinced the Navy to give him training on a T-45 flight simulator.
It should be noted here that a T-45 flight "simulator" is an actual flying jet. Seriously.
Jerry just seems to have that special mix of crazy and ballsy that lets him fool both NASA and the Navy for the thankfully brief span of... eight months.
So, to recap, both NASA and the Navy--staffed by folks highly trained in keeping secrets and checking backgrounds--were fooled into giving tours of top-secret facilities and discussing very sensitive information with a guy who, when busted, insisted Bill Clinton was his lawyer.
And How Did That Work Out For Him?
Even in a pre-9/11 world, the one group you don't want to really mess with is the U.S. government. Once caught, Whitrredge faced up to five years in jail and a $250,000 fine for impersonating a federal employee.
All that and he never even got to go to space.
One of These Cheerleaders is Not Like the Others
Wendy Brown, like most people, had some regrets about high school. But where most of us wish we'd not worn multi-colored, one-strapped overalls backwards, her big regret was that she didn't become a cheerleader. But as a 33-year-old mom with a history of identity theft charges, surely that dream of shaking her pompoms at high school boys was way beyond her reach. Or was it?
She would blend in seamlessly.
Wendy had a few tricks up her sleeve. First, she had a 15-year-old daughter who, thankfully, didn't live at home. Second, Wendy lived through the great Body Switching Movies Era of the 80s, a time when any stressed out adult with a regret or two could magically trade places with his or her son or daughter. Having no access to the demon wizardry that made those switches possible, she settled for the next best thing: pretending to be her daughter and enrolling in high school. So she could become a cheerleader.
Her yearbook photo was not flattering.
And How Did That Work Out For Her?
Not so awesome. Unless you consider felony identity theft charges and the ridicule of a nation "awesome," in which case, yeah... things turned out great! According to high school officials, despite looking like a world-weary truck driver with smoker's growl, her demeanor was that of a high school girl.
This woman earned a spot on the cheer squad. Presumably, there wasn't a lot of competition.
And what's even creepier was the fact that Brown inhabited her daughter so completely that she talked about being sad about moving out of Nevada and missing her friends.
Even creepier still, she didn't actually get caught until her check for her cheerleading uniform bounced. Had it not, she'd probably still be there, in her mid-30s, ragging about how her parents get her down while secretly experiencing her first symptoms of pre-menopause.
The Moscow Shillharmonic
In August 2000, the stage manager of a Hong Kong classical venue got a call from someone asking if he would he be interested in booking the entire Moscow Philharmonic for a couple of shows. As the Moscow Philharmonic is among the most respected orchestras in the world, the manager pretty much took this as a gift from the gods of Hong Kong (Buddhas?) and enthusiastically said yes.
So this large orchestra came, rehearsed and performed in front of about 10,000 Hong Kongians. And then they left, no doubt with unknowingly-impregnated groupies in their wake. All's well that ends well, yeah? Not exactly. Because they weren't actually the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra.
The real MPH was touring Europe, and members were pretty shocked to read about their great performances in Hong Kong, which, after two weeks of research, we discovered is not in Europe.
The yellow sections are verified as "Not Europe."
Research for the orange section is ongoing.
So apparently a very large, very talented group of Russian con men put together an insanely spot-on impersonation that fooled thousands of people.
And How Did That Work Out For Them?
It turns out this is something you can totally get away with. Seriously, try it.
You'll need a furry hat. Mustaches are encouraged but not mandatory.
To this day, no one knows who these people were, where they came from or where they went. All anyone knows is that they were probably Russian musicians who couldn't cut it with the real Philharmonic, that they made over $30,000 from their Hong Kong concerts, and that they played well enough to fool 10,000 people, including the critics who gave them great reviews.
Like Gary Oldman, But Less So
On the one hand, who hasn't watched Gary Oldman awesome it up on the big screen and wished he (or she) could be Gary Oldman? On the other hand, it's Gary Freaking Oldman, who we're pretty sure could twist your clavicle into a 'G' for Gary with a twitch of his eyebrow.
That sound you just heard was the simultaneous destruction of thousands of collarbones.
So when Mark Tufano got it in his ballsy brain that he was going to impersonate one of the world's baddassest actors, you've got to you admit that made him pretty hardcore.
It started in 1998, when Tufano found out that a big Hollywood type was casting the role of Andy Kaufman for The Man in the Moon. Several leading men were going for the part, and to audition they had to send in videotapes of them impersonating Mr. Kaufman himself. Here's where things got tricky.
Tufano began making calls, posing as Oldman, even though Oldman himself had turned down the part weeks before. So naturally the director was confused. Especially when he got the video of Mark Tufano, pretending to be Gary Oldman, pretending to be Andy Kaufman. Even more especially when Oldman read that he was a leading candidate for the role that he previously turned down. So the real Oldman got on the phone to clear up the mess.
"Got on the phone" is Oldman-code for "threatened with a handgun."
And How Did That Work Out For Him?
Everyone sort of took the whole thing as a prank, which was totally appropriate considering an Andy Kaufman project was involved. Oldman himself wasn't so amused, though. In fact, he was annoyed enough to call Tufano directly, when the following conversation apparently took place:
Gary Goddamn Oldman: Mark? Mark? It's Gary.
Mark Tufano: What do you want?
Gary Goddamn Oldman: You've been me, haven't you? You can't be me. You can't be me.
No, Tufano. You can't be Gary Oldman. Ultimately Tufano claimed that Oldman told him he was a good actor, and let him go on his merry way. Either that or he murdered Gary Oldman and took his place. But that's just impossible. Right?
Arnaud du Tilh - Le Imposteur
So you're a peasant in France in the 1500s. It goes without saying that life stinks. You'll do anything to get ahead. Even if that means, say, impersonating royalty, or pretending to be from a foreign land, or, best of all, impersonating another lowly peasant. It started when a guy named Martin Guerre went off to fight some wars and just stayed gone.
Three years later, a stranger showed up in town, claiming to be Guerre.
A rare photo of the Martin Guerre impersonator.
And apparently he looked enough like him and knew enough about his past that everyone went along with his story, including--wait for it--the original Martin's wife, who this medieval Don Draper was quick to knock up.
"Trust me. I'm Martin. Have a cocktail."
And then things really got weird. Real Martin's uncle eventually concluded this new, virile Martin was a fraud, especially when a passing soldier commented that he knew the real Martin, and that the real Martin looked a little different. Specifically, he had one fewer leg, having lost his in the war.
Pictured: A minor detail
So the imposter is accused of fraud in a highly dramatic trial, and Fake Martin loses. He is sentenced to death.
But OH SNAP... Fake Martin then appealed to higher authorities, and had his accusers arrested on perjury. And his new judges were going for his version of the story, too, when in a twist the writers of Scooby-Doo would envy, the REAL Marty actually showed up in the middle of the trial.
And he would have gotten away with it too, if it wasn't for that meddling, peg-legged, peasant.
Wooden leg and all. Fake Martin's multi-year, multi-babymaking jig was up.
And How Did That Work Out For Him?
In execution, obviously. It was the Middle Ages. You couldn't go around getting women pregnant in another man's name and expect to live to tell the tale. It wasn't until after his official conviction that Fake Martin confessed, apologized and revealed how he almost got away with the whole thing. Two strangers had once confused him for the real Guerre and filled him in on all the details he needed to get his start.
As for the real Martin Guerre, he had just been chilling at a monastery after his time in the army. And the fact he and his wooden leg showed up just as the trial of his wife and uncle was under way was just a coincidence. An awesome coincidence.
Barry Bremen Must Get Really Bored Sometimes
Barry Bremen was a man with a dream, and that dream was to crash as many sporting events as humanly possible, by any means whatsoever. He snuck onto the field of the 1979 MLB All-Star Game dressed as a Yankee. Also in 1979, he showed up in a Kansas City Kings uniform to the NBA All-Star Game, actually got onto the floor, and pulled it off again in 1981. He showed up in a limo to the 1982 Super Bowl as the San Diego Chicken and almost managed to get into the game. He played nine holes at the U.S. Open, he's pretended to be a referee, he even managed to impersonate a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader, before getting hog-tied, handcuffed and booted off the field.
From 1979 to 1986 Bremen had himself a ball planning and executing elaborate impersonations, often with the help and support of his wife, just for the fun of it.
And How Did That Work Out For Him?
Not too shabby, all things considered. The Dallas Cowboys fined him $5,000 for his cheerleader shenanigans, but it appears his stunts got him many times that amount in publicity. He was featured in People Magazine and got to chat it up with Johnny Carson at a time when people actually cared about that sort of thing. And since those few minutes of fame and attention were all he was really wanted in the first place, we'd say Barry Bremen is a raging success of a man.
A raging success, indeed.
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For more lies that fooled everyone, check out The 5 Most Half-Assed Scams That Were Shockingly Successful and The 6 Ballsiest Scientific Frauds (People Actually Fell For).
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