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15 Best Documentaries About Con Artists | #lovescams | #military | #datingscams | #datingscams | #love | #relationships | #scams | #pof | #match.com | #dating


Movies and TV shows are great, but documentaries are more believable because they feature detailed commentary, expert interviews, witness accounts, and even actual footage. Such types of projects tend to be even more fascinating when the subject is a con artist who avoided suspicion for months or years and made everyone around them look dumb. Con artist documentaries expose the human desire to always want the best at whatever cost. The scammers want an easy way to get the things they desire (mostly money) while the victims want to achieve wealth or feelings of gratification much quicker. In the end, both parties normally end up losing though there are few instances where either the con artist or the conned redeemed themselves.

15 Art and Craft (2014)

In Art and Craft, there is a big question mark surrounding the con artist’s ambition and goal in life. The documentary narrates how Mark Landis supplied paintings by Picasso, Signac, Magritte, and Daumier to 46 museums across 20 states, only that they weren’t real. He had made them himself. He wasn’t selling them either. They were mere donations.

Viewers are thus left wondering why Mark wouldn’t just use his talents to create his own paintings. After all, someone who can come up with a convincing copy of Picasso’s work is truly talented. Mark also put a lot of work into ensuring the donations went smoothly. He would masquerade as different kinds of people, including barons and priests, to avoid suspicion. After he was outed, he was never jailed because he never obtained any money illegally.

14 Sour Grapes (2016)

Carrafeira

Sour Grapes chronicles the criminal life of Indonesian wine savant, Rudy Kurniawan, who realized he could take advantage of rich peoples’ habit of overpaying for things. He collected wine bottles, filled them with cheaper wine, created fake labels, and then sold the products at wine auctions. Thanks to a smooth tongue, he convinced everyone that his product had been aged for dozens of years, hence it was superior.

Kurniawan’s adventure ended in the typical ‘FBI raid’ fashion, but before that, he had plenty of fun, collecting nearly $35 million in revenue. From a cinematic perspective, it’s the kind of story that would make for a good drinking movie, especially if handled by a director like Martin Scorsese, who knows how to capture the excesses and debauchery of wealthy people.

13 The Woman Who Wasn’t There (2012)

A scene from the documentary, The Woman Who Wasn’t There
Pluto TV

The best con artists tell the most convincing stories and for Tania Head, the level of detail is something to hold. The Woman Who Wasn’t There explains to viewers how the scammer came out as a 9/11 survivor, explaining how she walked down 70 floors while her clothes were on fire and her dislocated arm was dangling. She claimed her husband died during the attack too, except, she wasn’t even in New York when the attack happened. She was in Barcelona.

The documentary is a perfect study of “pseudologia fantastica” (the ability to lie subconsciously), and for Tania, it’s even more impressive because her name wasn’t even Head. She was Alice. As for the motivations, there were obvious perks for survivors, including free healthcare and book deals, so she benefited from all that. As the person with the saddest story, she became the most famous one among those who saw it all. At one point, she even walked Mayor Bloomberg around the terror site.

12 My Kid Could Paint That (2007)

A scene from My Kid Could Paint That
IMP

Becoming a famous artist is no easy feat unless you are as good as Vincent van Gogh. However, amateur artist Mark Olmstead quickly realized that while adults had to be excellent to be appreciated, children could be celebrated for simply being good or above average. He thus began claiming that his 4-year-old daughter had painted works that were actually his own, which My Kid Could Paint That explores.

As expected, the admiration poured in. Media outlets interviewed the girl and many customers lined up, resulting in sales of up to $300,000. To the world, she was a sensation, yet daddy was the brains behind it all. After the discovery, public interest waned and so did the money, though Mark was never formally charged with anything. To date, he denies that he was the artist behind his daughter’s paintings.

11 The Tinder Swindler (2022)

A scene from The Tinder Swindler
Netflix

The Tinder Swindler is perhaps the most watched out of all the documentaries on this list, and it’s easy to see why. In an age where almost everyone relies on dating apps to find love, the story hits close to home. It’s the kind of project that divides viewers into those who pity the victims and those who feel tempted to laugh at them.

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The man at the center of it all is Israeli-born Shimon Hayut, who posed as Simon Leviev, the son of Russian-Israeli diamond mogul Lev Leviev, and conned dozens of love interests into sending money by citing emergencies. In order to make them comfortable, Simon would treat them to gifts and dinners (using money he had conned other women), before extorting them.

10 Nuts! (2016)

A scene from the animated documentary, Nuts! (2016)
Amazon

Many critically acclaimed animated documentaries have gone under the radar and Nuts! is one of them. Perhaps audiences prefer seeing actual footage to animated scenes, but in this case, it’s totally understandable because the events happened a long time ago. The subject of the documentary is John R. Brinkley, who some might have argued should be celebrated rather than condemned.

Brinkley founded popular radio stations in both America and Mexico (KFTI and XERA), but he also lied that he could cure importance by transplanting goat testicles to humans. The story is indeed as nuts as the private parts it talks about and at one point, the physician even ran for governor. Besides that, the documentary is packed with humorous lines, so viewers will truly have a blast watching it. Additionally, the animation quality is very impressive.

9 Operation Odessa (2018)

A scene from the crime documentary, Operation Odessa
Amazon

At the height of his criminal empire, Pablo Escobar was widely known around the world, yet very few people knew what he actually looked like. Three Miami criminals thus took advantage of this and did business with Russian mobsters and military officials. One of them convincingly posed as Pablo Escobar and so the trust was earned. From getting choppers valued at $10 million for a mere $650,000 to acquiring free weapons, they did it all.

Their biggest score was when they realized the Cali Cartel urgently needed a submarine. Knowing they could easily get that from Russia, they got to work. Unfortunately, the authorities were sniffing, and some former friends had turned into informants. That’s how the empire eventually came crumbling down. Still, one cannot help but applaud their guts in every minute of Operation Odessa.

8 Marjoe (1972)

Marjoe preaching to the public in Marjoe
Amazon

Marjoe won the Oscar for “Best Documentary Feature,” so potential viewers can be certain that it’s a high-quality production. The events center around Marjoe Gortner, who was a popular child preacher in the American South, with his parents collecting most of his earnings. As an adult, he finally got out of their wing and the freedom caused him to develop a crisis of conscience. He thus decided to reveal how preachers con people.

This is, therefore, a one-of-a-kind documentary because the preacher allowed the crew to follow him around. All the lies of Pentecostal preaching are exposed and in some of the scenes, he admits that he isn’t even a believer. The release of the documentary made Marjoe even more famous, allowing him to have a lucrative career in the TV industry up until the ‘90s.

7 Con Girl (2023)

A scene from the hit con artist documentary, Con Girl (2023)
TBI

Samantha Azzopardi has been described as “Australia’s greatest con woman” and Con Girl examines the tactics of the lady who had taken up 75 different aliases across three continents by the age of 35. In 2022, she was sentenced to 17 months in prison, but she was released on mental health grounds, with doctors claiming that hers was another case of “pseudologia fantastica.”

Many of the victims that she conned all give their accounts in Con Girl, and the most impressive thing is how she managed to stick to a straight story for months. In one of her craziest scams, she flew a young aspiring model and her parents to Sydney, pretending to want to audition her. In reality, she just needed someone with a teenage voice so that she could use her in another scam.

6 The Imposter (2012)

A scene from the documentary, The Imposter (2012)
MUBI

The Imposter tells a story that’s wilder than what’s on offer in many of the best true crime movies. In it, a boy disappears and years later, a man shows up claiming to be him. He says military officials took him and used him as a sex slave, an account that draws sympathy from all quarters. The authorities thus don’t dig too much into his claims, and he is allowed to reunite with his family.

The man even had the boy’s tattoos, but it turns out that he was the mysterious French scammer Frédéric Bourdin, who has a habit of impersonating missing people. But that’s hardly the best part. When he is finally captured, Bourdin claims that the family he had infiltrated actually killed the boy that they claim was kidnapped. The only reason they accepted him is that his arrival helped cover up the murder.

5 The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley (2019)

The inventor documentary
HBO

Fans of TV shows about entrepreneurship and capitalism will have a blast watching The Inventor because it shows how quickly things can go wrong if you aren’t genuine with your business practices. The story is about the biotech entrepreneur Elizabeth Holmes who started the health technology company, Theranos, when she was 18 and grew it to a $10 billion valuation through deception.

Thanks to her sweet tongue, Holmes managed to strike partnerships with several investment firms yet her blood testing technology didn’t actually work as advertised. Nonetheless, she has gone down in history as one of the richest fraudsters (per Forbes valuations) since she was worth $4.5 billion at the time her treachery was discovered.

4 Catfish (2010)

A scene from Catfish (2010)
Amazon

The producers of Catfish are credited with inventing the term “catfishing,” and the popular documentary revolved around a photographer Nev Shulman, who forms a relationship with a budding singer on Facebook only to discover she isn’t who she says she is. His friends urge him to continue the relationship and even film him as he embarks on a journey to meet his ‘lover.’

Catfish has plenty of twists in the second half, all of which emerge after Nev arrives at his new lover’s house. The fact that she isn’t the singer is only a small bit of the story. Given the incredible twists and turns that the story takes, there have been suggestions that this is actually a faux-documentary. In an interview with MTV, the producers denied such claims, stating that “we are not that creative.”

3 An Honest Liar (2014)

James Randi in An Honest Liar
Abramorama

An Honest Liar is a lot like Marjoe. The documentary centers on the investigations and revelations of former magician James Randi, aka The Great Randi. At the height of his career, Randi was known as one of the most talented magicians in the world, but upon retiring he became “debunker,” going as far as to expose those who even dealt in the occult.

However, one can’t help but wonder whether Randi is the hero or villain here. In one of the scenes, it’s disclosed that a fake seer that he exposed was actually his live-in boyfriend and future husband. It’s, therefore, implied that some of the fraudsters he exposed were merely actors paid by him. Even so, there is some validity to his work because he actually exposed popular figures like Peter Popoff and Uri Geller.

2 The Puppet Master: Hunting The Ultimate Conman (2022)

A scene from The Puppet Master: Hunting The Ultimate Conman (2022)
Netflix

The Puppet Master: Hunting The Ultimate Conman tells the story of barman Robert Hendy-Freegard who masqueraded as an MI5 spy and conned dozens of people over a two-decade period. Robert’s tactics included triggering psychological stress in people by lying to them that they were being targeted for assassination. This made them follow his advice.

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In classic movie fashion, Robert even caused his victims to refuse to cooperate with the police as he made them believe there were moles inside the force. Even after getting imprisoned and released, Robert continued to engage in con-artistry, proof of his resilience and passion for crime. Thankfully, his glory days eventually came to an end.

1 Bad Vegan (2022)

A scene from Bad Vegan
Netflix

Summing up the list is Bad Vegan, a documentary about a vegan restaurant owner who was tricked by her lover into taking money out of her business so that they could pay an imaginary deity to make her floppy-eared dog immortal. It’s yet another story that tempts audiences to laugh at the victim without feeling guilty about it because it’s hard to imagine how anyone could be manipulated to such an extent.

The restaurateur Salma Mengailis went on to channel about $2 million from her business, which makes little sense considering that the money was enough to buy hundreds of more pitbulls in case her beloved one died. Interestingly, none of it is made up, and one can acknowledge how easily it is to fall for an expert manipulator. All her stories are backed up by testimony from colleagues, family members, and friends.

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