"In cities across the country, Michael Manos has thrown fantastic parties with faux celebrities and top-shelf tequila sponsors. He ingratiates himself in gay communities, fakes a European accent, and often has claimed to be the disavowed gay son of a Greek millionaire, though he actually grew up middle-class in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. Along the way, he’s taken thousands of dollars from socialites and the well-heeled, who were easily blinded by his glitter and glamour. He duped actress Jane Fonda. He sold tickets to a “chic” fundraiser in honor of Sen. John McCain, who later said he’d never heard of him. Manos is a bank robber, a one-time male escort on Capitol Hill, and the target of more than one cross-country manhunt. He is also a convicted kidnapper who helped keep a man locked in the trunk of a car for four days. For that, he spent more than a decade in a New York prison. And now he’s behind bars again, this time in Louisiana."
Scam: From 1920 to 1933, Oscar Merrill Hartzell bilked thousands and thousands of people out of millions and millions of dollars in the midst of a Great Depression. But when he was forcably returned to the US to face trial, the "common man" hailed him as a hero and savior. As the author of (the highly recommended) Drake's Fortune notes, confidence artists are a perverse echo of the classic Horatio Alger story, as swindlers build wealth by dint of ingenuity, perseverence, and breath-taking chutzpah. Perhaps that is why we love to read books and see films of their exploits. But it doesn't explain why we keep falling for the same ruses over and over again.