There are all sorts of fakers and cheats; many win and get away with it, many others get caught and shunned for their actions. Some are even found out, but walk away as though nothing happened, because the public simply doesn’t care. These are the 15 biggest cheats, fakers and frauds who won. Some kept their winnings, and some are hated and reviled to this day.
In 1989 at a live performance put on by MTV, Rob and Fab of Milli Vanilli experienced the worst possible lip-sync disaster imaginable. In the middle of their song “Girl You Know it’s True,” the recording began to skip on the main lyrics — over and over again. Rob and Fab tried to roll with it for as long as they could, but wound up running off the stage. The audience wasn’t immediately sure of what had actually happened, critics took to analyzing and it wasn’t long before the duo was found out for a fraud. They were outed as two hapless male models and stripped of their fame overnight.
Once backed by Oprah herself, James Frey made it big with his supposed memoir, A Million Little Pieces, only to be outed as a fraud for making up large chunks of the story he claimed was autobiographical. He pissed off so many people that Oprah herself confronted him live on TV, and even South Park devoted an episode to immortalizing the scandal with the story of Towelie and his book, A Million Little Fibers.
In a half-assed attempt to get her six year-old daughter tickets to see Hannah Montana, Priscilla Ceballos — and her nonexistent eyebrows — fabricated a story to win a contest put on by Disney. The contest goal was for the little girls themselves to write a heart warming story that would win over the contest judges. Priscilla sent in a story that she claimed her daughter wrote, that began with ”My daddy died this year in Iraq.” The story went on in similar tear-jerking fashion, but was completely fabricated. She was found out and put on national TV to apologize for it.
Publishing under a pseudonym ”J.T. Leroy,” Laura Albert wrote several fictional books that were supposedly semi-autobiographical memoirs of a twenty-something male prostitute who was homeless and addicted to drugs. Aside from her being a woman, she couldn’t be further from the persona she had concocted as the author. By the time she was found out, she had already gotten as far as a movie-deal, and the company financing the operation filed suit against her for fraud.
The Tunisian 12-Baby Faker
Last year, the world just would not shut up about Nadya Octomom Suleman, but at the height of her popularity, a challenger arose. Across the world, in Tunisia of all places, a woman who never gave a real name for herself claimed to be pregnant with 12 babies — six boys and six girls — and quickly gobbled up every media headline previously slated for Octomom. After every media outlet had reported on her story twice over, she was found out to be a mentally-unstable fraud who had gone into hiding before anyone had a chance to confirm her identity.
The Onion (Actually Winning a Peabody)
We’re not about to say a bad word about The Onion for this; it’s just plain funny. The much-loved publication was summoned to Athens, Georgia last year to accept their brand new Peabody Award — an award generally given to journalists who have shown exemplary merit. The folks at The Onion never applied for the award or sent any submission materials, and were as surprised as anyone that they were nominated at all. When accepting the award, their executive producer thanked his “fellow journalists” for the honor.
The Fake Nurse: Betty A. Lichtenstein
Betty A. Lichtenstein, was arrested last year for pretending to be a registered nurse in Norwalk, Connecticut. She was so good at faking it, apparently, that she was awarded Nurse of the Year by the Connecticut Nursing Association in 2008 — an association that doesn’t even exist. She even staged the banquet where she received the “honor.”
Robin Goldstein & Osteria L’Intrepido
Robin Goldstein is a clever fellow, and decided he was as fed up with the pretentious snobbery of wine magazines as the rest of us lowly plebes. He made up a fake restaurant, built a crappy fake website for the place, grabbed a telephone and fax number based in Milan, Italy, and went to work putting together the most pretentious menu he could come up with. For the “reserves” part of the wine list, he used the worst-rated wines in the last decade’s worth of Wine Spectator issues — the magazine he had targeted in an attempt to win their “Award of Excellence.” He paid the $250 fee and entered his restaurant for the magazine to rate, and got the award. He then blogged about the experience and told the magazine, who swear they don’t go around giving these awards away for nothing.
Ernie Bewick is your traditional Guy Ritchie style english thug with a “protection” business. He ran a security gig in Sunderland, England, where he was a “feared security boss” for nightclubs, pubs, restaurants and hotels in the area. Basically he was such a hardass that the local punks were too afraid of him to mess with whatever establishments said he was their guy. The catch is, old Ernie wasn’t even there, as he was serving two years of a six-year sentence for beating a man to death in a street fight the other guy started. Ernie’s security business literally banking on his name alone, and he was raking in the dough — equal to about $600,000 worth. The government found out about his unstated income in 2004 and he’s been fighting ever since to keep the money.
Tommy Glenn Carmichael
Tulsa, Oklahoma-based grifter, cheat, shark and gambler Tommy Glenn Carmichael was busted back in the 80′s for scamming slot machines with a handheld device of his own design. After spending some time in prison, and thinking long and hard, he devised new inventions that he later put to use to cheat newer slot machines, constantly upgrading his equipment as time wore on. For years, he played a game of cat and mouse with the country’s leading casino empires, until he was busted again in the late 90′s using what he called a “light wand,” and finally had to switch sides to stay out of prison. Today he makes anti-cheat devices for slot machines, but he’s still banned from casinos for life.
Florida State University
Florida State got it’s proverbial wrists slapped pretty hard by the NCAA recently for a cheating scandal involving 61 students, who played in 10 different sports for the school. The cheating took place in an online Music Appreciation class — the kind that people take for free credits because they’re so easy. The athletes were apparently so mind-numbingly dense that they couldn’t even pass a class designed to be passed by people who are mind-numbingly dense, and resorted to cheating en masse via use of a “tutor,” who simply gave them the answers to the tests.
José Luis Rodriguez
We really shouldn’t be too terribly hard on Mr. Rodriguez for his photograph. It’s an amazing shot, truly, and he did title the piece appropriately: Storybook Wolf. His problem is that the contest was for National History Museum’s Wildlife Photographer of the Year, and the wolf he used for the shot is very likely to be a tamed animal. Fact is, wolves don’t like to jump, period, and a real one would have preferred to stuff itself through the gate a thousand times before it would consider leaping over it. On top of that, just what are the odds of happening across a wild wolf hopping over a fence in the middle of the night? Rodriguez was awarded the prize for this photo, only to have it revoked by the judges after calls of cheating were heard.
Guillaume Chauvin & Remi Huberr
Guillaume Chauvin & Remi Huberr were two French art students attending Ecole Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Strasbourg, France. They entered the Grand Prix du Photoreportage Etudiant, a contest for pictures that best exemplify the art and profession of photojournalism, with a collection of gritty shots showcasing the hardships of modern students. The collection won, and when Gullaume and Remi took the stage, they outed themselves to the judges and audience instead of accepting their award. They said that they never expected to win, and that they had entered the contest in mild protest, as a statement about photojournalism being more staged and artsy today than the real stuff of the past. They only got more recognition after that.
1980 was a long, long time ago, and memories aren’t what they used to be. Especially not for IBM, Bill Gates, and anybody who was around back then when DOS first made waves in the tech world. Today, the general public goes on thinking that Bill Gates is the richest man in the world because he invented DOS and Windows and all the other goodies that Microsoft has been peddling since the early days of the PC. The problem is, Bill Gates was never successful in his attempt to build an operating system back in 1980. He paid a man named Tim Paterson $50,000 for his shaky but working operating system, QDOS, which was a rough clone of an already established OS called CP/M, written by Gary Kildall. Gates polished QDOS into a finished product, renamed it DOS, slapped Microsoft on the disk labels and licensed it to IBM in what would become the start of a very lucrative career for an individual of very mediocre technical talent. The rest is blue-screened history.
Edison was a prolific inventor and business man, to be sure, but he was also something of a thieving bastard. At least, that’s what many of his contemporaries called him. Edison ran around gobbling up patents at an inhuman pace, either buying them out or paying off inventors before they filed, so that he could file them instead. His greatest claim to fame, the light bulb, was already installed in street lamps and business signs in England by a man named Joseph Swan, who actually did invent them. In the ensuing legal battle over the US patent for them, he had to agree to take on Swan as a partner for his business dealings in England. Nikola Tesla, inventor of AC power and fluorescent light bulbs, among many other things, died an angry, lonely, bitter man in a New York apartment — cursing Edison because he had stolen several of his inventions and called them his own. Tesla wasn’t the friendliest of guys back in his day, either, but he’d probably be pretty happy knowing that today, he is the one held in high regard, while Edison is widely known for the man he really was.