8 Obvious Lies That People Believed For Waaay Too Long
Hey, remember that wacky story of the lady who was removed from her job at the NAACP because it turned out she was white and pretending to be black for years? When a story like this hits, everybody scratches their head and says, "But how did it take people so long to figure it out?"
The answer is that much of the world still runs on trust (did you demand to see your dentist's license before you let him start stabbing your gums?), and you can get surprisingly far, as long as your lie is brazen enough. "After all," people will say, "who would lie about that?" Well ...
A Man Won An Election By Implying He Was Black
Yeah, this sort of thing isn't exactly without precedent.
Let's pretend you're an old, white, conservative man running for a spot on the local community college board in a predominantly young, black, liberal neighborhood. It's like an inspirational movie for old Southern racists. So what do you do, hotshot? What do you do? Failed mayoral candidate Dave Wilson had a simple answer: pretend to be black.
Wilson mailed out pamphlets plastered with stolen images of smiling black people imploring voters to choose their "friend and neighbor Dave Wilson." His mailings also claimed that he was endorsed by Ron Wilson, which was technically true. However, only some extremely small print clarified that this wasn't Ron Wilson, the black former state representative, but rather Dave's extremely white cousin.
Hilariously, Wilson accused other politicians of deceit, and one particular opponent of running on the basis of her sexual orientation, despite his circa-1995 website featuring pictures of smiling black people and absolutely none of himself. All these shenanigans caused local news to refer to Wilson as a "gleeful political troublemaker," because being a grown man who lies about his basic personal attributes for political gain is totally tantamount to being a small child who gives wedgies on the playground.
And Wilson did win the election, although whether that's a testament to the sleaziness of his tactics or the ignorance of voters is a question we'll let you decide. Hell, how closely do you follow school board elections?
A Government Official Claimed To Be A CIA Operative To Earn More Vacation Days
Here's what skilled liars all know: If you're worried about being caught, simply lie about something unverifiable. That's presumably why 65-year-old EPA official John C. Beale told his bosses that he was a CIA agent and had to miss work to go on special classified missions. Technically, Operation Lounge In Front Of The TV In The Ratty Underwear My Wife Doesn't Like And Eat Ice Cream was a special mission only he knew about.
To be clear, it's not like he came back from one unexcused sick day with this shady story and everybody quickly forgot about it -- he kept his lie up for a staggering two-and-a-half years, with even his own wife believing him (although you're probably not going to ask too many questions of a spouse who brought home half a million dollars in unearned bonuses). He also claimed $57,000 worth of first-class travel expenses, because pop culture has taught us that spies enjoy only the finest things in life. He also claimed to be suffering from the lingering effects of malaria acquired during the Vietnam War, which earned him a free handicapped parking spot valued at $8,000 a year. Obviously, he had never served in Vietnam, but whoever tried to charge 8,000 bucks for a freaking handicapped parking spot probably deserved to be lied to.
After all the effort he went through, what Beale did with his extra time was disappointingly mundane: He exercised, fixed up the house, and worked on a research project that was actually somewhat related to his job. A lot of 60-plus people can live that exotic dream with an esoteric trick called fucking retiring from your job, which you clearly don't like. Beale instead retired to 32 months in jail, although he heroically owned up to his crimes by stating, "I own this. This is on me," during sentencing, as opposed to trying to blame gremlins like a lesser man would. As for the EPA, they presumably underwent a training session called "Real CIA Agents Don't Go To Their Cover Jobs For Years And Then Blab About Their Spy Work, You Dumb Shits."
A 34-Year-Old Pretended To Be A High School Student
Lots of people lie about how old they are, and some of them can plausibly get away with a pretty broad range of ages (Pee-Wee Herman is older than John Malkovich!). But 34-year-old Charity Johnson managed to convincingly pretend to be a 15-year-old student ... for an entire year. And nobody caught on.
It started when Johnson told Tamica Lincoln, her co-worker at McDonald's, that she A) was a teenager and B) needed help because her father was abusive, while neglecting to mention that he was also dead. (Maybe the abuse was supernatural?) So Lincoln started serving as Johnson's guardian. She took her into her home, bought her clothes and school supplies, and enrolled her in a small Texas school.
Johnson did well academically, although you'd hope for no less, considering the material was designed for people 20 years her junior. She was popular amongst her "peers," and even found herself with a boyfriend. Before you get all grossed out, don't worry -- the guy was 23. How did she convince a 23-year-old to date a 34-year-old pretending to be a 15-year-old? Why, she told him she was 18. We guess it's also possible that he was undercover in some kind of 21 Jump Street situation we still aren't aware of.
And in keeping with the plot ripped from a bad movie, no one was offended when the charade was revealed. The students all miss her, her teachers say they're happy to have educated her, regardless of her age, and she's still on good terms with Lincoln. The government has presumably also forgiven Johnson, on the condition that they're allowed to study her X-Men-esque anti-aging powers.
A Man Posed As An Army General For Three Years
In the ultimate proof that you can go anywhere and do anything if you act like you belong, Pakistani man Maqsood Shah spent three goddamn years posing as an army general in a country that isn't exactly known for taking a casual attitude towards military matters, considering it's constantly on the brink of war. He wasn't ordering troops around or organizing an invasion of Kashmir, but he did get favors from police and was in the middle of negotiating an illegal land transfer agreement. "If you don't give me this land, I'll fucking invade it" is a better threat than what Shah could come up with through his real job as a hospital administrator. Although to be honest, "We wouldn't want the hospital to lose your paperwork the next time you're sick ... would we?" is also rather intimidating.
Shah even attended the funeral of a local politician as General Shah, 27-And-A-Half-Star General, which both speaks to the fake influence he had accrued and raises many, many questions as to how he managed his scam. Did he visibly stroll around town day after day in uniform, convincing people that he was one of those generals who telecommute? Or did he tell everyone that he was busy doing drill camps at the local army hanger, and only popped in once every six months to ask how his land transfer was going and remind everyone that he was in charge of a bunch of dudes who drive tanks for a living?
While people impersonating soldiers are depressingly common, it takes serious chutzpah to start right at the top. Then again, in addition to finding two uniforms at Shah's house, police also confiscated an AK-47 and a Blackberry, so it's possible that Shah is just a legitimate crazy person. Because who the hell else still owns a Blackberry?
Man Posed As A Former Cop, Professor, FBI Instructor, And "Jurist Doctorate"
According to Mark Rizzo, Mark Rizzo is a former sheriff, criminal justice and behavioral science professor, and FBI Academy instructor who holds degrees in both criminal justice and law. According to reality, Mark Rizzo knows the basics of MS Paint.
Despite what you can plainly see are some fairly rudimentary forgery skills, Rizzo's bullshit Captain America resume helped him secure jobs lecturing at law enforcement conferences and institutions that train prison ministers, among many other gigs. Rizzo also claimed he was a former gang leader convicted of racketeering, presumably to give his lectures more street cred. That lie makes his overall fraud kind of obvious in retrospect, seeing as how it's likely that 100 percent of law enforcement agencies don't hire employees with racketeering convictions.
Yet, despite boasting a resume that could have been debunked with about 30 seconds of research (and doing so since the 1980s), what brought Rizzo down was a random typo.
Rizzo was arrested in 2004, after what must be the world's most pretentious detective attended a conference where he was scheduled to speak. Detective Stuffypants noticed that Rizzo was listed as a "Juris Doctorate" rather than the correct "juris doctor," which non-douchenozzles know as a "lawyer." Rather than assume that whoever wrote the program had fewer sticks up his ass than he did when it came to technical nomenclature, the detective began looking into Rizzo's background, and years of scamming were eventually brought down by a technicality.
Even after the fraud was revealed, several law enforcement officials vouched for Rizzo's character and legal knowledge, because "fake it 'til you make it" applies to high-level legal knowledge, it seems. A Baptist college stated that he "was a huge help to our students" and a lawyer "sensed he was very genuine." As far as we can tell, that's why literally no one who employed him managed to run a background check. The dude was really good at the jobs he'd lied his way into.
A Man Lied His Way Through Multiple Marathons
It's a joke you've probably seen in pop culture a dozen times. Some lazy such-and-such hides in the bushes near the finish line of a marathon, only to jump out right before the true runners arrive to win the whole thing. But apparently, that's easy to pull off in real life, as the bizarre saga of Kip Litton tells us.
Litton was a dentist with a name like a Star Wars character and a dream: to complete a marathon in under three hours in every American state. But running fast is hard, so he came up with a compromise. He'd spend money travelling to marathons across the country, but once there, he'd cheat his ass off.
The last mile is so much easier when it's the only mile you run.
You can't pull the old bush trick anymore, as every runner wears a little chip that records their time between certain intervals. But what you can do is carefully study the course to plan shortcuts that shave significant time off your race, while changing clothes so no one wonders how that guy they saw a mile behind them had managed to teleport ahead. Look, we're all for laziness when it comes to physical activity, but at that point, it might have been easier to just train for the damn races.
Litton tracked his "progress" on his website, which he also claimed to be using to raise money for cystic fibrosis. He also put his skills to use by flat-out inventing the West Wyoming Marathon, which entailed putting fake testimony on marathon sites and creating a homepage that included a field of 29 fictional entrants. When a suspicious marathon veteran began investigating Litton's career, he contacted "Robert Rodriguez," the marathon's director. Rodriguez assured him that no worries, bro, Litton was totes on the level -- and in fact, he heard that the only thing Litton is better at than running is making love.
Further inspection revealed that Litton had fabricated additional races, although it's still not clear what motivated him. He hadn't exactly earned fame and fortune, and records showed that he had only donated a whopping $20 to that charity he was supposedly doing it all for. Maybe lying was to him what running was to the real participants: He wanted to get good at it, and knew the only way to do so was to keep pushing himself.
A Man Pretended To Be Madonna's Manager (And Johnny Depp's Manager, And Oprah's Nephew, And President Obama's Aide)
For everyone else on this list, deceit seemed to be a quick way to grab money or status. For Justin Jackson, it's a calling. As far as we know, his story began in 2007, when he posed as Madonna's manager, acquired $2.4 million worth of jewels for a "photo shoot," and was convicted of grand theft for selling the jewelry, even though he'd pinkie-promised he'd have it back by 4:30 p.m. Wait, so you can walk into places and tell them that you need shit for a photo shoot? Quick, we need the name of a store that sells both motorcycles and chimpanzees.
Jackson also impersonated an aide to Barack Obama in order to score free Juicy Couture clothing and handbags, as well as Cheesecake Factory gift certificates, because obviously you can picture the President needing all of those things. We would have loved to have been a fly on the wall for those conversations. "What would you do if we said we wanted to make the State of the Union a little ... juicier?"
But it's Jackson's involvement with Oprah where things get truly bizarre. First, he impersonated Johnny Depp's manager to score tickets for one of her shows. Then, by impersonating an OWN employee (and also at one point claiming to be Oprah's nephew), Jackson requested a job from several hotels using OWN letterhead. His argument was that Oprah really wanted to visit her beloved employee/nephew, but only in the context of having him change her towels every morning.
Jackson then tried to acquire free airline tickets and swag under the guise of representing Oprah. He solicited Converse, Pandora, and a few brands we're not hip enough to recognize, presumably with a message that read "OPRAH DEMANDS TRIBUTE." He also used his fake Oprah connection to try to gain access to Trey Songz for unspecified nefarious purposes, although given Jackson's history, he probably just wanted to get a recommendation letter for Safeway and free tickets to the local AA baseball team.
A Man Pretended To Be A Deaf Composer For Almost Two Decades (And He Was Neither)
Faking a disability and claiming someone else's work as your own are two particularly reprehensible forms of fraud, yet composer Mamoru Samuragochi managed to combine them into an asshole combo meal. It wasn't easy; it required a strange partnership with another man who did have talent, and who was willing to let Samuragochi take all the credit. Still, the scam went on for 18 years without anyone getting suspicious.
Samuragochi earned the nickname "Japan's Beethoven" by being a deaf composer who wrote a famous tribute to the victims of the Hiroshima bombing and, uh, the soundtrack for Resident Evil. Except every note he'd ever written had in truth been composed by Takashi Niigaki, an adjunct music professor. Samuragochi's hearing was weak but functional, and he couldn't even write musical notation.
But don't mistake that for a lack of effort, as Samuragochi learned sign language to maintain the deception. As for the troublesome task of conducting an orchestra, they had a ruse whereby Samuragochi would say that Niigaki needed to serve as his stand-in, and Niigaki would constantly pretend to ask Samuragochi questions (so everyone would know who was really waving the baton).
In the end, it was Niigaki who broke. He claimed that he was moved to reveal the 18-year-old scam because a Japanese figure skater was going to perform to one of his pieces at the Olympics, and the idea of fraud and corruption in figure skating was plain unthinkable. That time Samuragochi received an award from Hiroshima for his contribution to the city's artistic legacy? Meh, whatever. The nationwide use of his music after 2011's natural and nuclear disasters? That's cool. But figure skating? Get some sand, because we're drawing a line in it.
Meanwhile, Samuragochi says that Niigaki wanted more money to keep quiet. While we're hesitant to side with the serial liar who claimed his music spoke to people because he had "suffered more than anybody else," we'll believe him on this one.
Kayla Layaoen is about to start college. She just wants to write things. You can find all her other stuff here. Tim Brown is finishing up law school. His LinkedIn profile is here. You can read more from Mark, or learn how he faked his way into a nunnery, at his website.
We all learned today that the only way to achieve anything is to lie compulsively nonstop. If you need more proof, check out 5 Ridiculous Lies That Fooled The Whole World and The 6 Most Obvious Lies People Got Famous Telling The Media.
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