Summer 2018’s brightest star has been the scammer.
Grifters of all sorts have been in the headlines this year, from thieves to embezzlers to animals impersonating other animals. What’s bringing on all this Big Scam Energy? We’re not sure, but it’s made for some fun headlines. Here, our favorite summer grifters, ranked by how much we enjoyed reading about their exploits.
14. Billy McFarland of Fyre Festival fame
You might remember McFarland from his other failed scam: Fyre Festival. Unfortunately, he does not appear to have learned a single lesson from that debacle. McFarland was arrested in June and charged with wire fraud and money laundering for a fake ticket sales scheme completely separate from Fyre Fest. Billy, dude, what’s up?
13. Beyoncé and the fake twins
“Beyoncé? A scammer?” you might be wondering. We hate to be the bearer of bad news but yes — kind of. Bey’s On The Run II tour with Jay-Z has brought us many incredible moments, including a pair of fake twins. Many were by the Queen when an image flashed on the screen of Beyoncé holding what seemed to be Sir and Rumi Carter, in all of their beautiful plump baby glory.
Turns out, it wasn’t them. BuzzFeed later confirmed everyone’s speculations.
12. The zebra that is totally not a donkey
Somewhere out in this wild world, there is a donkey that has been forced to live life as a zebra because of an elaborate scam in a Cairo zoo. Nope, this isn’t a joke. A visitor went to view the zebras in the zoo, only to be greeted by a donkey with stripes painted on him and ears that are a little too big to be a zebra’s.
The visitor then posted a photo of the animal on Facebook, complete with unmistakably smudged paint. While the zoo claims that it is not a donkey, our eyebrows are definitely furrowed.
11. MoviePass lifehackers
These days, it seems like MoviePass itself is a scam. But we have give it up for the real scammers: the people who have hacked the app (we’re talking rewards cards, illegal popcorn purchases) for their moviegoing pleasures. A begrudging shoutout to y’all.
10. The Portofino Pirate
In June, a 50-year-old designer named Larissa Watson hopped aboard a yacht docked in the upscale resort village of Portofino, found the keys, and just … tried to take it. Luckily, a nearby worker managed to remove the keys from the ignition before she made it out of the harbor, but she still almost made it out of the harbor. With a yacht worth €150,000. Imagine.
9. The stroller sharknappers
In July, three would-be thieves at the San Antonio Aquarium tried to kidnap Ms. Helen the horn shark by plucking her from her tank, placing her in a bucket full of bleach solution, and carting the bucket away in a stroller. They were later discovered when the aquarium’s manager noticed liquid dripping from the stroller.
Ms. Helen survived the ordeal and is doing fine.
8. The cast of Ocean’s 8
The film Ocean’s 8 is not a scam itself, but it does celebrate scammers. Therefore, it holds a very special place on this list and in our hearts. The film’s primary heist — which is set at the Met Gala and involves a necklace worth hundreds of millions of dollars — is full of little mini-scams, too, which makes a Ocean’s 8 movie night the quintessential 2018 viewing experience.
7. The lunch ladies
Two cafeteria workers in New Canaan, Connecticut were arrested earlier this month for allegedly skimming $478,000 in student lunch money over a period of about five years.
How’d they get away with it? By consistently underreporting the amount of money the school had received.
“Since [the scam] occurred over a long period of time in relatively small amounts, the district was unaware of these discrepancies until it instituted new financial controls specifically related to the collection and depositing of cash in the cafeterias,” Michael Horyczun, spokesman for New Canaan Public Schools, told the New York Times.
Quite an operation.
6. Bonnie the cow
Bonnie is an anomaly among scammers: Her motives are noble. This hero, who is a cow, escaped slaughter when she was only four-months-old, then took up residence with a herd of deer. She was eventually rescued by Farm Sanctuary and now lives in a luxury barn. Scamming pays off!
5. The former Vogue assistant
Yvonne Bannigan, a former Vogue freelancer, was arrested earlier this summer for stealing over $50,000 from former creative director Grace Coddington. Turns out Bannigan made a series of unauthorized purchases on Coddington’s credit card — and had the audacity to sell some of her personal items for almost $10,000 which she also pocketed.
4. The Hollywood exec impersonator
For two years, an unidentified woman has been impersonating powerful figures in Hollywood, luring them into unfulfilled contracts, and stealing money from them. Meanwhile, her victims are just excited about working with Amy Pascal or Kathleen Kennedy — two of the many women she’s pretended to be over the phone.
It’s a scam so outrageous, it would probably would be a Hollywood film if it didn’t involve key players within the entertainment industry. The Hollywood Reporter uncovered the elaborate scam and spoke with many folks who interacted with her organization and the scammer herself, who has made upwards of thousands of dollars from identity theft and still remains unknown. Watch out.
3. The royal wedding expert
Thomas J. Mace-Archer-Mills, Esq. sounds exactly like the name of someone who would fake their way into becoming an expert in all things royal wedding. With his best fake British accent, Tommy Muscatello scammed his way into history just in time for the nuptials of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry.
He perfected his British accent twenty years ago during a school play and put it to good use by appearing on news programs as a royal wedding expert and founding member of the British Monarchist Foundation — only to eventually be called out by . Turns out, Mace-Archer-Mills was just a combination of his friends’ last names. In an interesting twist, the has stuck with Muscatello even after all this controversy. Pretty impressive.
2. Clarinet girlfriend
In 2014, Jennifer Lee didn’t want her boyfriend, clarinetist Eric Abramovitz, to go away to school. Pretty relatable. Less relatable: She hacked into his email, intercepted his acceptance to Los Angeles’s Colburn Conservatory of Music, then sent an email on behalf of her boyfriend declining their offer. Then, she sent Abramovitz a fake email from the school to make it look like he’d actually been rejected.
The duped clarinetist only found out about Lee’s scam in 2016, when he auditioned for the same professor who he believed had rejected him three years earlier. The professor was weirded out, understandably, because he believed the clarinetist had already said no. And thus, the jig was up.
Abramovitz was awarded $375,000 CAD.
1. SoHo grifter Anna Delvey
Anna Delvey is the one scammer to rule them all. Two bombshell stories — one in Vanity Fair, one from The Cut — chronicled the fake German heiress’ wild schemes, all of which involved scamming hundreds of thousands of dollars from actual rich people. Read both in their entirety: there’s plenty of fancy dinners, celebrity appearances, hotel room evictions, leaked Lil Wayne albums, doomed arts foundations, and $4,500 personal training packages within.
Delvey, whose real name is Anna Sorokin, was indicted on grand larceny charges last week and faces 15 years in prison. On the bright side, Shondaland and Netflix are making a TV show about her, which we’re sure is all she really wants.
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