4 Con Stories: Guy Who Funded Watergate Escaped to the Caribbean and Claimed to Cure AIDS

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Because we’ve been conditioned by movies and TV shows, we think that every successful con must be elaborate, well-planned, and pulled off by master criminals.

Well…that’s not exactly true. Some cons are so far-fetched that the people attempting it don’t even think it’ll work. Take a look at these successful cons, which are truly stranger than fiction. And they go to show you that you that people will fall for just about anything.

1.  The Swedish Mafia and the Doomsday Cult

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A Swedish gangster named Bo Stefan Eriksson and some of his “associates” went underground and resurfaced in London in 2003 to try to make money with a new venture: video games. Oh, and the company was founded by a doomsday cult based in Florida. Not weird at all, right?

Eriksson promoted a handheld video game console called Gizmondo. The games were lame and badly produced, but the purpose was to bilk investors out of money. Which they did, getting a whole lot of cash and running up losses of more than $380 million, of which $200 million can’t be accounted for. When the scam was uncovered, Eriksson and his cronies disappeared again until they resurfaced a few years later in California.

2. Yes, you can open a bank!

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A man named Gilbert Ziegler arrived in the country of Grenada in 1997 following the collapse of a business in Oregon. And Ziegler was determined to…wait for it…open a bank. He didn’t have any startup capital technically, but he did have a ruby…actually he had a photograph of a ruby that he claimed was worth $20 million.

And he was granted a banking license by the Grenadian government just like that. He promised inventors a 500% return on their investment and he announced that his new bank pulled in $26 billion in profit, which would have made it the most profitable company in the world by a longshot. Of course, it was all BS, Ziegler conned people out of more than $200 million and then he fled to Uganda.

3. This guy lied to get laid and became a King.

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During the 1920s, a Russian con artist named Boris Skossyreff traveled throughout Europe posing as a Dutch aristocrat and trying to wine and dine the ladies. He eventually hooked up with Florence Marmon, the former wife of an American auto tycoon. In 1934 the couple took a trip to the tiny country of Andorra, situated between France and Spain.

Skossyreff presented the locals a document calling for reforms in Andorra…and he asked to be made their King. And the locals agreed. The Andorran Council voted 23-1 in favor of “Boris I.” The one no vote headed into Spain and immediately alerted authorities. Skossyreff was taken into custody in Spain and later deported. Well, it was fun while it lasted…

4. The Watergate scammer didn’t stop there…

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There were many slimy individuals involved in Watergate, but perhaps none were as bad as Robert Vesco, a con man who hooked up with President Richard Nixon when the SEC started to take notice of his shady business practices, which had netted him over $200 million. Vesco gave Nixon and his cronies $200,000 to help fund the infamous Watergate break-in in 1972.

Vesco ended up fleeing to Costa Rica because Nixon didn’t go out of his way to help him and he couldn’t be extradited from that country. Vesco then spent his time running guns, smuggling cocaine, and he even tried to buy the island of Barbuda so he could start his own country where crime would be legal: seriously. He then went to Cuba and worked with, wait for it, the nephews of Nixon and Fidel Castro to market a new drug that would cure cancer and AIDS. Fidel Castro eventually tossed Vesco in jail, where he died in 2007.