Stupid Cons That Actually Worked For A While
You almost have to admire con artists when they're at the top of their game. There's a certain evil genius in tricking the gullible out of their money with a well-crafted scam. But when you see someone get rich with the kind of scheme a child might concoct after binging Naked Gun movies, it's just aggravating. Like when...
A Clinic Sold $14,000 Tubes Of Cream To The Military
Defrauding the healthcare system has long been a tried and true way for morally bankrupt folk to make a quick buck. Ditto bilking the American military by convincing them to do things like buy $10,000 toilet seats. Mash those two golden geese together and you have the recipe for grifting foie gras, at least until someone finds it odd that you're selling tubes of pain relief cream for $14,500 each.
It was essentially a kickback scheme, with the American taxpayer filling the role of the designated sucker. The operation was based in Tennessee, where a clinic exploited a loophole to avoid FDA scrutiny. By falsely calling their "cure all" cream a compound medication (a mixture specifically tailored for one person) they were able to charge absurd prices for their special goo.
Maybe it would have worked if they'd kept things small and got out while they were still ahead. But just like you can't pull a gambling addict from the blackjack table while they're up, the apparently easy money was too hard to ignore. So more people got involved, including marines who were tasked with recruiting other service members to receive phony prescriptions for a cream that did little beyond defraud the public. Meanwhile the ringleaders, in the grand tradition of history's dopiest mobsters, spent their non-laundered lucre on wise and subtle investments like huge estates with monogrammed gates.
According to the former head of military insurance behemoth TriCare, the government was on track to spend two billion on bogus prescriptions... in one year. But the behavior of the perpetrators was so "extraordinarily brazen" that the scheme's unraveling was inevitable. Two doctors and a nurse pled guilty and face lengthy stays in the federal hoosegow, where at least a tube of beating relief cream might trade well for cigarettes.
A Man Complaining About Bread Racked Up A Quarter Million Dollars
In 2015, Takashi Ishimoto called a Tokyo grocery store to complain that the bread he purchased was soggy. So far this is just the story of a 53-year-old man getting ready for his retirement hobbies, but the next day he called and pretended to be a bigshot at the store's head office. Furious that word of the store's infamous soggy bread was spreading, employees were ordered to apologise to Ishimoto by delivering him fresh bread... and cold, hard cash.
Ishimoto somehow sounded confident enough to bilk a store for $2,500. Oh, and upon his eventual arrest, he was linked to a series of scams from previous years that used the same tactic to bring in around a quarter million dollars. Such a wacky scheme could have only worked in Japan, because American retailers would have made him wait on hold for five hours, then told him it wasn't their fault he didn't buy the store's $129.99 annual bread insurance.
A Terrible Musician With No Fans Conned His Way Into A European Tour
Every teenager dreams of being a rock star, and every tone deaf 29-year-old who can't accept that they're going to be stuck working in an insurance office for the next 35 years will go to desperate lengths to keep the dream alive. So when Jered Eames, aka Threatin, booked a 10-city European tour, it looked like he finally got his big break. Then, at his London show, three people showed up to a venue built for 300. Because that's about how many fans Threatin really has.
Eames had invented fake Facebook fans, fake live videos, a fake publicist and fake record label with reams of fake clients, and a fake booking agent. Using the invented personas of employees at companies like Aligned Artist Management, Magnified Media PR, and Definitely Legit Music Unlimited Incorporated LLC, Eames hired a crew, recruited an opening act, booked venues, and faked ticket sales.
It all worked perfectly until he actually had to play his shows, at which point it became obvious that he had less star power than the Theremin Polka Revue. Eames, who claimed this was all an elaborate marketing stunt, wasn't surprised that it fell apart but was surprised that people were for some reason mad at him. His opening act was furious about the wasted time and money, club owners were pissed that potentially profitable nights were squandered, and random people on the internet were happy to revel in it all.
According to Eames, the attention he got from that last group was all part of his master plan, with a statement on his website reading "Fake News? I turned an empty room into an international headline. If you are reading this, you are part of the illusion." Aside from sounding like something the Joker screams as he's dragged back into an Arkham cell, Threatin has yet to make any new music, book any new shows, or win any new fans with tracks that sound like B-sides from a band that got booed off the stage when they opened for a 2018 Poison show.
A Change Of Address Form Relocated UPS Headquarters To A Small Apartment
In 2018, the United States Postal Service received a change-of-address form from UPS, the multi-billion dollar international delivery and logistics company. Apparently UPS had decided to relocate their global headquarters from a sprawling Atlanta office complex to a one-bedroom apartment in Chicago. Hey, times are tough. We hear FedEx is run from a single WeWork desk and eBay is just an old van parked under a bridge. Half the Fortune 500 went bankrupt after a Sheboygan McDonald's secured their Wi-Fi.
Okay, in reality, the form had been filed by Chicago grifter Dushaun Henderson-Spruce and, amazingly, it worked. USPS, apparently still run on the honor system by a kindly old postmaster, accepted the change and redirected UPS's corporate mail to Henderson-Spruce's shitty bachelor pad. Even crazier, it took UPS three months to notice, during which executives presumably stared wistfully out the window and wondered why no one ever wrote to them anymore. Meanwhile, every postal worker in Chicago lost their knee cartilage hauling letters to Henderson-Spruce. When the cops finally arrived, they found over 3,000 letters crammed into his tiny apartment. The guy was getting so much mail the post office actually left a special mail tub outside his door because his box couldn't hold it all. At some point USPS must have thought they were getting pranked by Purolator, because the daily Miracle on 34 Street re-enactments had to have raised some questions.
It cannot be emphasized enough how little work Henderson-Spruce did. His entire scam was filling in a form. And he fucked that up by writing his own initials on the signature line before scratching them out and writing in "UPS." That kind of laziness does not make you proactive about avoiding arrest, and Henderson-Spruce was charged with depositing over $58,000 in UPS checks. He also managed to get American Express to send 150 UPS corporate credit cards to his address, although most arrived after his arrest so he never go the chance to make it rain at his local Chili's. He pled guilty to mail fraud in February 2019. Meanwhile, UPS has yet to build an advertising campaign around the scam, which is crazy because "UPS: Unlike The Government, We Won't Redirect All Your Important Mail To Any Rando Who Asks" is a hell of a slogan.
E. Reid Ross has a couple books, Nature is the Worst: 500 reasons you'll never want to go outside again and Canadabis: The Canadian Weed Reader, both available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.