Biggest Fraudster you know or have heard of

All this stuff about Elizabeth Holmes had me thinking about who commit fraud, what they do, how often they do it, if they get caught. Would there be some way to rank them? I'll mention a couple below, but would like to know if anyone wants to add one, could be a public person or someone they know personally (keep it light):

Elizabeth Holmes: started Theranos, defrauded investors, the public and big business of what her machines were able to do. Basically shot for the moon and didn't get higher than you can jump. 

Bernie Madoff: hedge fund fraudster, ran a ponzi scheme that collapsed mainly due to the 2008 financial crisis. Played by fat Richard Dreyfus in the ABC cable movie, played by basic Robert De Niro in the HBO movie. 

John Spano: subject of ESPN 30 for 30 "Big Shot". Basically took ownership of the Islanders hockey team and "promised" to make good on the payment, but didn't have anywhere near the funds. Rolled with some billionaires in Texas so everyone though he was good for the money. NHL strong armed him in to handing ownership of the team back to them, made due diligence on team purchases a thing now. 

Hilaria Baldwin: Alec Baldwin's wife, born in Boston, pretends to be Spanish. 

Dude Perfect guys: bunch of guys who started filming themselves taking blind free throws (probably?) and parlayed it into gaining top five youtube viewership. I respect hustle, but I know that even as lame as some stuff on ESPN these days (cornhole, pool, darts) the guys on TV are significantly better than myself. I shouldn't be able to randomly take four other people from WSO and do what you do. 

Ned "Carlos" Mencia: had a TV show on comedy central, accused of stealing jokes from George Lopez, who ironically, was also accused of stealing the same joke from another guy. 

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Comments (102)

  • Associate 1 in RE - Comm
Sep 17, 2021 - 4:47pm

Keith Raniere, leader of NXIVM. Was just sentenced to life for running a sex cult out of his self help / MLM / executive training company. This cult was really interesting because he was able to con some bright / educated people, actresses in legit shows, etc.

There's a show in it - the Vow on HBO. It's honestly so dark that I have to watch a cheerful cartoon after each episode to get my mind right

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Sep 17, 2021 - 5:00pm

most, if not all permanent life insurance salespeople

anyone in a MLM operation

but my favorite, my absolute favorites are shittigroup execs bob rubin and charles prince, who said (direct quote from july 2007) "As long as the music is playing, you've got to get up and dance, we're still dancing." he was out of a job less than 4 months later. fucker. nearly ruined smith barney

Sep 18, 2021 - 6:39am

Much of the time it enriches the broker via a fat one time commission and is an inferior option to other wealth building alternatives.

it has a place, sure, but I've noticed more and more people leading with it instead of just saying "dollar cost average into low cost funds and buy term insurance" which would be the more prudent 

Sep 17, 2021 - 9:37pm

In the eighties, the mob figured out how to pocket the taxes paid on gasoline in NY through an elaborate set of dummy companies.  At one point they were running this scam on 1/3 to 1/2 of the gasoline in the entire NY metro area.

Most Helpful
Sep 17, 2021 - 10:30pm

Joe Biden - in one of the more elaborate rouses in history, he hid in his basement for nearly a year and successfully kept anyone from getting wise to the fact that he had full-blown dementia.

I come from down in the valley, where mister when you're young, they bring you up to do like your daddy done

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Sep 18, 2021 - 5:32pm

Top bucket, early A2A, offered internal laterals by industry groups I've been cross-staffed w/.  If you think that Joe Biden is all there, or that his policies haven't been the most immediate and visibly abysmal failures of any president since Carter, then you're a fucking idiot.  It sounds like you're a fucking idiot. 

I come from down in the valley, where mister when you're young, they bring you up to do like your daddy done

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Sep 23, 2021 - 10:10am

Agreed. I didn't vote for Trump, and I'll be honest I love that he got away with all the insane shit he said. But, I've watched too many clips of Biden not knowing what he was saying, just incomprehensible.  It doesn't mean I don't like the politics, but the man is out of it.  We need a cap on age limits, 65 would be a good max age limit.

  • Associate 1 in IB - Gen
Sep 18, 2021 - 1:37pm

Trump has to be up there somewhere. Dude was president while funneling hundreds of millions of dollars in government business to his real estate properties including Mar a lago

pretty much anyone interested politics really. Fucking leeches 

Sep 21, 2021 - 5:01pm


You know that was at cost right?  Not saying it was a good idea, but the Trump properties weren't profiting. 

Booking rooms at a hotel "at cost" is still a profit making enterprise, since the alternative is that they don't actually book up at all.

Second, the fact that Mr Trump spent 10% of his time as POTUS at one of his properties, specifically Mar a Lago.  Foreign diplomats and Americans looking for access or influence had only to stay there as well (and not "at cost") or join the club.  His mere presence drove profit margins; we're not talking about a handful of days where he was at a Trump property - it was a major percentage of his time as POTUS.  If Mr Obama or Biden had said that for 10% of their Presidency, you'd have to pay them to have a conversation, you would have heard the talking heads at Fox exploding from across the country.  So even if you want to claim that the American taxpayer footed literally zero dollars of his stays at his properties (an obviously untrue statement), he's still using his position as POTUS to drive business to those properties.

You have to be a complete mouth breather, or registered Republican I suppose, to try and argue that Mr Trump's Administration wasn't geared in part towards driving business towards his various interests.  

Sep 19, 2021 - 10:16pm

If you're misrepresenting luck, leverage, and beta as alpha, I certainly believe that you are being fraudulent.

If a rich guy chooses to invest in your fund and you explain that the returns are really created by excessive leverage and no special ability of your team, then I certainly don't see anything fraudulent about that.  But how many funds advertise that way?  Maybe only, Vanguard ETFs lol.

Sep 20, 2021 - 5:11am

1. Chamath Palihapitiya.

2. Chris Haroun: Teaches a bunch of Udemy courses and makes it sound like you can take some of his courses and really have a shot at a worthwhile high finance career on just that. 

3. Dan Pena, Dan Lok, Tai Lopez, and that entire community. 

4. Jim Kramer: Just. Why is this guy still allowed to be on TV? Is he really bringing in that massive entertainment value? 

Almost felt sick while writing this list out.

Sep 22, 2021 - 3:59am

Can someone explain the Grant Cardone thing to me? Seems to me without research like a cheap Tony Robbins type of rip-off who overly attracts dudes who self-identify way too much as "alpha"

Sep 20, 2021 - 11:50am

Mr. Krabs. It's very obvious that his burger shop is a front for a drug smuggling business. Bikini Bottom was a nice place before he opened up. I've seen officers parked outside of  Krusty Krab. Probably in there receiving payments and "free burgers".  

Sep 20, 2021 - 11:56am

Once met a guy who was just sentenced 21 months for operating a ponzi fraud scheme. Ordered to pay restitution of $1.8mm plus a small fine. 

Total loser lmao. 

Sep 21, 2021 - 4:56pm

if youre inside on an asset and watch the stock price before an IPO is announced publicly you can watch it rally.

Sep 20, 2021 - 6:38pm

The finance influencer. Can't think of a place that is more infected with absolute nonsense (read: teenage entrepreneurs). I also like how this time last year there were tons of social-media day traders who were day/swingtrading stuff like TSLA and preaching the market can't drop. Would love to see them buy the dip with all that cash they set aside. 

The real estate guru. Over-levered to the tits. Constantly yelling "CASHFLOW". Preaching about their immaculate strategy of buying a crackhouse for $200,000, installing new cabinets and appliances, then selling for $250,000. "WE ARE ADDING VALUE".

Also if there's an old guy who wears exclusively Tommy Bahama, odds are he commits fraud or had it happen to him.

Most of the VC space, particularly in raising funds (and don't get me started on exiting). Half of the entrepreneurs aren't looking to build anything of societal value. Lie/cheat/steal your way to $X in revenue, market the most egregiously out-to-lunch comp as a direct competitor in your "worldview", sell and unload the reins to pursue another venture. Ideally your next venture is something to do with sustainable food production, online/crypto/BLOCKchain education, or an anti-aging / health serum. Not much funnier in the world than seeing some poor immigrant get twisted up in the Silicon Valley ratrace to sell your morals for cash, before turning 180 degrees and preaching the benefits of close-knit communities ("Did you know we lived in small tribes for thousands of years? There's just so many benefits we've lost since then, right?"). Big bonus points if you say any of these realizations occurred during their LSD/Acid/Ayahuasca/DMT trip.

Sep 21, 2021 - 9:21am

Real estate guru- I love when those guys talk about buying business that have "cashflow"; i understand how accounting works, but I always think, are the people they are preaching to really investing in pre-revenue companies?

The VC guy- my cousins husband works for a VC billionaire guy, got lucky and sold his business to Amazon in the early days that basically went bankrupt. They worship at his altar, I get it, I respect hustle, but at the end of the day like you said its not creating value. 

Sep 21, 2021 - 2:39pm

Don't you understand, cashflow in the real estate game creates gEnErAtIoNaL wEaLtH

The amount of tech guys who sold early and have since then been hucking hail mary's via their VC shop is outrageous. People think that because the person exited at X valuation, everything he touches will turn gold. Cue Ivy MBAs crowding into the cap table. Lo and behold the valuation does turn gold!

Sep 21, 2021 - 6:03pm


Real estate guru- I love when those guys talk about buying business that have "cashflow"; i understand how accounting works, but I always think, are the people they are preaching to really investing in pre-revenue companies?

I love these guys.  Take a video walking through a casino, talking about how they're worth $300mm or something... because they own properties valued at $300mm.

  • Intern in IB - ECM
Sep 21, 2021 - 3:43pm

First two are fair, but imagine seriously thinking that most entrepreneurs building venture backed startups are fraudsters. Esp when you are posting on a finance forum, a leech industry where we provide functionally identical services and rely on actual operators to create value in order to get fees. If it were so easy to make money in entrepreneurship, hordes of undergraduates would be spinning up these "scams" overnight and make killings. You're just plain wrong and sound butthurt. Is your salary as a development analyst that bad?

  • VP in IB-M&A
Sep 21, 2021 - 4:04pm

My cousin tells anyone who will listen about her days working at McKinsey/"in consulting" and being co-alums with Sheryl Sandberg, Marissa Mayer, Chelsea Clinton, etc. 

She was a graphic designer there for like 8 months

Sep 22, 2021 - 4:02am

Honestly a majority of foreign (non-US) financiers. As much as we condemn a lot of folk in the US for sleezy or duplicitous-seeming activity, looking at financiers in HK/India/any non-EU/US country are generally shady as fuck. The amount of accepted corruption and accepted behavior around such activities is insane.

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  • Intern in Acct - Audit
Sep 23, 2021 - 7:37pm

I'm Nigerian so I'll have to go with Hushpuppi. He isn't the "biggest" but in terms of non financially complex scams he was pretty huge. When he was arrested in 2020 they found $40m in cash in his hotel room, has over 2m followers on instagram and it is estimated the total fallout from his scam was over $400m. In my country people could not believe he hadn't been arrested because he was so flashy living in Dubai, partying with celebrities and constantly taunted law enforcement. 

In the end he got caught trying to pull a COVID related scam and has been extradited to the US where he currently is and had most of his victims. 

I wasn't going to put him here but Bloomberg recently did a very flashy article about him and I guess since most of the people here are in finance that will be of interest.

Oct 10, 2021 - 7:39pm

Emmanuel Nwude: former Nigerian banker who defrauded a Brazilian bank out of $242 million. It was $191 million in lump cash and then the rest from advance-fees.

How did he do it? He sold a fake airport in Nigeria. He literally promised an airport where they would make the ROI in dividends. They ended up finding out about the fraud when Santander was about to acquire the Brazilian bank, and was wondering why 2/5ths of the bank's funds were in the Cayman Islands unmonitored lol.

All of this led to the Swiss, Brazilian, British, Nigerian and U.S authorities to hunt for this man. When he was caught and sent to trial in Nigeria, he ended up bribing his way out of jail. To this day, he still walks around with probably $200m.

Oct 10, 2021 - 8:50pm

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  • Intern in IB - Cov
Oct 18, 2021 - 5:34pm

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