Monday, March 10, 2008

If you're going to con the ladies, don't forget about Google

Frank Abagnale Jr. never had to worry about Internet search engines. If so, he might have been caught a whole lot sooner.

Consider the story of Jordan Gann. He managed to swindle a lot of people, but once someone started Googling the jig was up.

Actually, though, I think Jordan's problem runs a bit deeper. He's a two-bit player who wouldn't know a big score if it took him for a ride. If he'd been a real player he would have given himself a Google-friendly pedigree to go along with his crazy stories.

Friday, July 13, 2007

The Three Card Monte Roadshow and a bit of higher education

Every time I think the old con games are dead and buried, one resurfaces. Perhaps they are zombies.

The venerable game of Three Card Monte recently made an appearance at a truck stop on Route 206. This sounds like an old-style road mob only smaller and less smart. Letting yourself get caught on camera tossing the broad is not a good career move, especially if the take is only a couple of grand.

On the other hand, check out the cajones on Ralph Cucciniello. This guy volunteers to be a researcher at Yale and then claims to have found an immigration loophole. He convinced a couple of hundred immigrants (mostly Irish) that for a mere $5K each he could guarantee them a green card. He also ran a longer scam on a Long Island couple that netted him over $100K. I'm guessing that he'll be spending more than a few days in prison, and he probably won't be able to wear his Yale t-shirt.

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Hey, lady... you got two tens for a five?

I've always had a soft spot for change raising, but have always considered it a very, very small con... at most you'd expect to net ten or twenty bucks from a gullible clerk.

In certain circumstances, however, the scam can be much more lucrative. A couple of guys in Oklahoma used the hustle on a dimwitted store clerk and netted $300! I don't know how in the world they managed that, but it's probably a record haul. The store clerk must have emptied the till right on the counter to lose that much money.

One transaction at a time, people... it's not that hard.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

"Harrah's" must be Vegas-speak for "Gutless and Short-Sighted"

Richard Brodie likes to gamble... a lot. I guess he's just a geek living the dream. After all, the man "invented" Microsoft Word and served as Bill Gates' assistant, so why shouldn't he have a little fun? He's become a reasonably high-profile poker player.

Now, however, there is a fly in the ointment. A few months ago Richard managed to hit a couple of video poker jackpots at Caesar's Palace (now owned by Harrah's.) Richard plays for big money, so these were pretty healthy jackpots at $240K each. By his own accounts Richard had been playing $300 per hand and had invested over $150K before he hit the first jackpot, so it's not like he walked up with a quarter in his pocket and hit the big one.

Here's where the story gets interesting. Last month Harrah's sent Richard a registered letter that essentially barred him from setting foot on any Harrah's property because he is too lucky. They have even barred him from the World Series of Poker which is an event with a guaranteed profit for Harrah's.

It's just ridiculous that Harrah's has taken this action. If their high-limit video poker machines are too lose, tighten them up. If they spend more comping this high roller than they make in profit off of his gambling, then don't comp him so much... but barring him from the property? That's just rude and stupid. If this guy keeps playing negative expectation games like video poker, Harrah's will eventually make money off of him. Hell, I'm sure that they have ALREADY made a bunch of profit from his playing in the past.

Anyway, this all goes to show you that the old days of Caesar's Palace being the home of the high roller are definitely gone.


Sunday, June 03, 2007

Sweet Sixteen and Never Been Scammed

Everyone loves a good, old-fashioned oil scam, particularly one that brought in $20M-$25M. What's a little securities fraud among friends, right? Usually the hustler would fake a gusher or two, take in a bunch of money, and then disappear completely.

Gary Milby seems to have followed the plan perfectly, right up to the point where he appeared on MTV. It seems that Gary is awfully fond of his ultra-spoiled daughter Ariel. This particular little mermaid recently appeared alongside her father on My Super Sweet 16. Ariel apparently shares her father's love of oil wells, exclaiming "I love oil! Oil means shoes and cars and purses!"
If the authorities ever catch up with Gary, oil (or more accurately the complete lack thereof) will probably mean fines, prosecution and jail time. His former investors are steaming mad after watching their former money pay for helicopter rides, a huge party and a brand new BMW for 16-year-old Ariel.

Normally I'd give the guy's daughter a pass on the wrongdoings of her father, but since she's a spoiled, demanding brat who has delusions of being a princess, I'm going to make an exception.

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Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Real Hustle is Jammin!

After I mentioned The Real Hustle in a previous post, I was really gratified to see that they took my suggestion and did a segment on the Jam Auction (more traditionally known as The Run Out in Great Britain.) OK, so maybe they didn't actually take the hint from me and it's just a case of great minds thinking alike, but no show on British scams would be complete without a segment on the Run Out. Even though the treatment is very rudimentary it's still pretty fun to watch. If you've never seen the scam in person, take a look below and get yourself an education.

These blokes get off easy at twenty pounds... a lot of suckers have paid far more for the same bit of knowledge.

Friday, March 23, 2007

And it's POISON DART by a NOSE!

I've always wanted to bet the races in Hong Kong. It's the ultimate, urban racetrack experience. While Kentucky may have rolling hills and great Bourbon, Hong Kong has night racing, a skyscraper backdrop, a $40M+ nightly handle, and (apparently) a device capable of firing poison darts.

Speculation is that the triads planned to rig a few races by shooting a mild tranquilizer into some of the key horses, thereby increasing their take in illegal betting parlors. The device was reasonably sophisticated, utilizing wireless technology to enable remote triggering, and was found hidden in the turf near the starting point for some of the route races.

It just does to show you that no matter how old the sport gets, there will always be some new guy with a new plan to beat the races.

Friday, February 16, 2007

If you are grifting in China, you might want to pack your bags.

If you've read about the old cons based on tulip speculation or postal reply coupons and thought that they were quaint remnants of a bygone age, you might want to reconsider. Wang Zhendong appears to have broken some new ground with his ant-based scam. Apparently tea and/or liquor tinctures made from ants are a popular home remedy in parts of china, and our friend Wang (or is it our friend Zhendong? I always get those confused) convinced over 10,000 people that they could make BIG MONEY by raising their own ants for resale, and he was all too happy to sell them the supplies necessary to do so at an obscene markup. The take? A whopping 3 billion yuan ($387 million)! That, my friends, is a shitload of ants.

All is not well for Wang Zhendong, however. The Chinese government caught up with him and his associates and discovered that the whole operation was a sham. While the lackeys have been sentenced to terms ranging from 5-10 years and fined sums between $10K and $75K, our man Wang didn't get off so light. The Chinese government sentenced him to death.