5 Proven Frauds Who Somehow Keep Getting Away With It
You'd think that being publicly humiliated would be enough to drive an exposed charlatan into obscurity, but the most dedicated swindlers aren't so easily deterred. Some people are so determined to make a living through fraud that an entire army of skeptics wouldn't be enough to dissuade these hacks. It's like the old saying goes: "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice -- you'll need to slightly retool your act for that, but yeah, okay."
Uri Geller Vowed To Stop Brexit With Telepathy
Uri Geller is an Israeli "psychic" who claims he can bend spoons with the power of his mind. And, apart from a few other boardwalk-level parlor tricks, that's about it. Yet somehow his alleged silverware manipulation granted him widespread fame and frequent appearances on American television, where folks like Barbara Walters would fawn over his supposed mastery over the paranormal. Then, in 1973, Johnny Carson invited Geller to appear on The Tonight Show, and a magician named James Randi seemingly ended Geller's career with the nemesis of all hucksters, a controlled experiment.
Geller himself was the first to assume that his career was doomed. Instead he found himself in greater demand than ever, with believers following the dubious logic that a run of the mill magician would be able to perform a trick on demand, while a true psychic would, as Geller claimed on The Tonight Show, sometimes be too tired to use his abilities (but not too tired to sue for libel afterwards). Nonetheless, in a 2008 interview Geller admitted that he wasn't the warlock of dining implement torque that he claimed to be for all those years, saying "I'll no longer say that I have supernatural powers. I am an entertainer. I want to do a good show. My entire character has changed."
No one wants to begrudge a guy for making a living. So as long as he does his spoon routine without pretending to have powers beyond the understanding of science it's cool, right? Oh, goddammit...
Call us crazy, but we're pretty sure that "psychic energy" and telepathic threats fall directly into the "supernatural powers" category. No doubt Theresa May stayed up all night trembling at his open letter that stated: "I feel psychically and very strongly that most British people do not want Brexit. I love you very much but I will not allow you to lead Britain into Brexit. As much as I admire you, I will stop you telepathically from doing this - and believe me I am capable of executing it. Before I take this drastic course of action, I appeal to you to stop the process immediately while you still have a chance."
Geller also said that his powers have been verified by the CIA, MI5 and the Mossad, and claimed credit for predicting May's electoral victory, because when you're going to tell sad lies for attention you might as well go all the way. His stupid ramblings got him all sorts of free press and high-profile interviews, even though most people who claim that they're going to psychically attack the prime minister just get arrested for peeing on the bus again.
Robert Tilton Specifically Wants To Scam Poor People
Robert Tilton is a Texas preacher and the subject of mockery by John Oliver and YouTube remixers alike. But his antics made him a bundle in the early '90s, with Tilton pulling in as much as $80 million a year thanks to Success-N-Life, his TV program/infomercial dubbed "the fastest growing television ministry in America." But as with many of the world's most florid televangelists Tilton was eventually laid low by scandal, in his case garden variety fraud.
Tilton's shtick was convincing desperate people that if they kept making him richer then God would reward them, which you may recognise as basically the exact opposite of what that Jesus guy said. As one of countless examples, two of his flock gave him $3500 under the impression that it would be put towards the construction of a crisis center, only for Tilton to just keep the money for himself. So surely after he was exposed Tilton moved to a different state, changed his name, and used his skills to become a discount mattress salesman, right?
Well, while he may not have a TV show where he can speak in tongues and act as a conduit for God to "make midgets grow" anymore, he's basically up to the same shenanigans on a smaller scale. Tilton has discovered webcasting and operates a shoddy website with the sole purpose of talking lonely seniors out of their pension checks with flawless logic like: "Vowing is one of the best ways to stretch your faith -- but only when your vow goes beyond your natural resources or abilities. I don't need much faith to vow $100 if I have $2,000 in a savings account. But, if I don't even have a savings account and can barely pay my bills, then a $100 vow will stretch my faith indeed."
Yes, Tilton's argument is that the more you put yourself into financial peril for his sake then the more God will reward you. He may be a bit long in the tooth, but his current operation allows him to live comfortably in a well-to-do California neighborhood with a pack of poodles and a third wife about 250 years his junior. Though the demonic forces of federal law enforcement still dog this unwavering soldier of the Lord -- like when the IRS launched an investigation challenging the holy integrity of his taxes -- Tilton persists. So should you find yourself in the vicinity of a Culver City Marriott conference room, you too can get shown to the door for asking too many heretical questions.
Tai Lopez Was Already A Huckster By The Time He Started Taking Over YouTube
Tai Lopez is part of a long line of self-help gurus who have discovered that the secret to getting rich is to teach people how to get rich. You might be unfortunate enough to remember his "Here in my garage" ad, which was so widespread that it racked up over 69 million views even though the only product that it convinced most people to use was AdBlock. In it, he mentions luxuries like a house in Beverly Hills and a Lamborghini, and says that he reads "a book a day" because "knowledge" is the greatest treasure of all. Well, except of course for the greatest treasure of all: his website and its purchasable programs that will give you the same success he has.
Except neither the mansion nor the car were his. It took a crack private investigator to discover the truth, by which we mean that comedic YouTuber h3h3 used Google. Lopez was renting or leasing most of the supposed proof that he had become a superstar, and while that still takes a fair chunk of change you wouldn't book a luxury cruise ship stateroom and then try to impress people by claiming that you own the boat.
And while reading a book a day certainly sounds impressive considering that it takes us a month just to get through some good Transformers erotica, Lopez hasn't actually tapped into the secret powers of the Reading Rainbow. He says you should just read the table of contents and then skim the interesting parts, because books are padded with superfluous junk called "words". He also says that it's often just as good to read a summary, and while that's maybe true when your reading list is full of elderly billionaires talking about how great they are, you can't call yourself an expert on English literature if all you've done is browse the Romeo and Juliet Wikipedia page to get the gist.
The programs he was selling, while technically not outright scams, were rambling nonsense that combined the obvious (saving money is, wait for it, good) with the recycling of other people's work. Success cases were rare, fake reviews were common, and his promised refunds for disappointed customers were difficult if not outright impossible to procure. Which we all should have seen coming, since before fleecing people who call themselves entrepreneurs in their Tinder profiles, he launched a series of dating websites like elitemeeting.com, modelmeet.com, and meetingmillonaires.com that charged a subscription so you could maybe date rich people. And these were an outright scam, getting slammed with criticism for using fake profiles and billing people with unauthorised credit card charges. His obnoxious "knowledge" ads were his comeback from fraud. Remember this when Lopez inevitably resurfaces once more to sell cryptocurrency and weed.
Michael West Is A "Bite Expert" Who Sent Innocent People To Prison
Forensics is rarely as powerful in reality as it is on TV. Hair analysis is guesswork, fingerprint comparisons are subjective, and stronger evidence is painstakingly dissected over time by some anonymous tech who knows nothing about the rest of the investigation to maintain their impartiality. So if you ever see a high-profile expert claiming preternatural powers right out of a gimmicky procedural, be skeptical.
That brings us to Michael West, dentist and self-described bite expert who was in huge demand in Mississippi and Louisiana throughout the '90s after aggressively marketing himself as someone who could ensure a conviction. West detected bite marks no one else saw and linked them to suspects when no one else could. He once matched a suspect to bites from a half-eaten bologna sandwich that he then "accidentally" destroyed. It was later revealed that the sandwich had actually been eaten by the victim. His secretive process, modestly dubbed the West Phenomenon, involved putting on yellow goggles and taking out an ultraviolet light, which he falsely claimed he developed after hearing about ancient Chinese doctors noticing new wounds after looking at bodies through blue silk.
In 2001, a suspicious investigator approached West. Could he match photos of bites on a victim to a mold of the suspect's teeth? West could and did, which was a remarkable accomplishment considering that this was a sting operation and the mold was actually of the investigator's own teeth. Newsweek did a 2001 expose on West, and 60 Minutes did one in 2002 that focused on two men he'd sent to death row. He'd matched both to bites on victims found outdoors. It eventually turned out that an unrelated man had killed both victims but hadn't bitten either of them (they were likely animal bites).
Then the videos came out. One showed him repeatedly pushing a bite mold into a body, even though leaving new bite marks in a corpse is a massive investigative no-no. Another video shows West prodding at a corpse's relatively unblemished buttocks, and then after a cut in the footage bite marks are magically visible. By 2011, West declared in a deposition "I no longer believe in bite-mark analysis. I don't think it should be used in court."
So that was the end of him, right? Nope! As of 2016 he had reneged and was defending his research while his old cases were re-examined. During a deposition he flung insults around, suggested that he was the real victim, and implied that the litigator questioning him was a murderer. Good old roguish West! Oh, and in 2018 a man was released after 28 years of being wrongly imprisoned thanks to West's "expertise," making it 31 exonerations and counting. But West has been granted "qualified immunity" from legal action, so catch him in Teeth, Wednesdays on CBS!
Three Fake Ex-Terrorists Make Bank Giving Speeches
If you were in the right place around 2007, you had the chance to catch Zak Anani, Kamal Saleem, and Walid Shoebat all speaking to the same eager audience. Born in the Middle East and raised as Muslims, they spent decades as terrorists before converting to Christianity, turning their lives around, and using their expertise to tell America how to deal with terrorism (mostly by hating and fearing all Muslims). Truly inspiring stuff, right?
The Three Ex-Terrorists (coming soon to Fox!) might remind you of ex-Klansmen, neo-Nazis, and gang members who saw the error of their ways. Except, as long as you aren't being too enthusiastic about it, it's perfectly legal to be a Nazi or in the KKK (that's freedom of association). Anyone can leave those organisations and then recount their experiences without getting arrested. But terrorism is very much not legal. If you bombed innocent people, like these three claim to have, you will be held criminally accountable, not forgiven just because you found Jesus. So what are these guys doing walking around freely?
The trio spent years talking to fundamentalist Christian groups and acting as experts on the news, but when they spoke at the Air Force Academy on the taxpayer's dime they began to attract a little more scrutiny. In 2008, the New York Times examined Saleem's claim that he'd put a bunch of bombs in tunnels under the Golan Heights in Israel, and discovered that no incident like he described had ever happened. It's almost like Anani wasn't a "dagger specialist" who killed his first victim at 13, Kamal didn't complete his first terror mission in Israel at the tender age of seven, and Shoebat hadn't been sent by his parents to Chicago to be indoctrinated in a secretive "Terror Conference" run by the city's supposedly upstanding Muslim citizens.
In 2011 Anderson Cooper ran a whole segment on Shoebat, (which he had to preface by admitting that CNN had previously presented the man as a qualified expert). CNN confronted him about various inconsistencies in his story, including his arrest. Shoebat told them, "Go to the prison. The records are there." So they did, because they're an international news organization, and the prison had no record of him at all. Then they tracked down a cousin of his in Palestine, who said that Shoebat only claimed to be a terrorist "for his own personal reasons."
Those personal reasons presumably involve making lots of money. Anani died in 2016, but Saleem and Shoebat continue to accept donations, sell merchandise, train goddamn law enforcement, and book speaking gigs where they talk about how all Muslims are secretly evil and need Jesus. Meanwhile, anyone who is within thirteen degrees of separation from actual terrorists stands no chance of even stepping foot in the country.
E. Reid Ross has a book called BIZARRE WORLD that's due to be released in September. He's practically on his knees begging that you pre order it now from Amazon or Barnes and Noble and leave a scathing/glowing review. Abraham is your friendly neighborhood Mexican writer. You can say "hola" to him on Twitter here. Follow Ryan Menezes on Twitter for bits cut from this article and other stuff no one should see.
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