The Greatest Fake Rich People Of Our Time

In the wake of the exploits of Mohammed Islam, a high schooler that fooled journalists into thinking he was a stock whiz, we look at some the greatest fake rich people of our time. 

Yesterday, Stuyvesant High School junior Mohammed Islam briefly became the center of the news aggregation universe after New York reported that he had somehow accumulated $72 million through trading stocks while on his lunch break.

A huge amount of money? Sure. An unbelievable amount? Yes, probably. Did he make it all up? Of course. The story was appealing precisely because it was implausible – really implausible. By yesterday afternoon, Islam had been outed as a liar who traded (very successfully) simulated stocks. His simulated dividends remain impressive. He does not. Still, you have to respect the boldness. Mo Islam joins the long, illustrious list of liars who have tried to convince America of their wealth despite lacking, well, money.

Christophe Rocancourt: Mr. Rocancourt is a French con man that somehow kept scamming people for over twenty years, while, along the way, having relationships with two Playboy playmates and Miss France. He pretended to be a movie producer and venture capitalist, lived with Mickey Rourke (in the nineties, when that was cool) and convinced Jean Claude van Damme to produce a film he’d dreamt up. Despite various run-ins with the law, Rocancourt was able to convince wealthy people he was a French member of the Rockefeller family and in 2009 convinced a French filmmaker to have him star in a film opposite Naomi Campbell. After demanding more and more exorbitant sums of cash to write the screenplay, the filmmaker sued Rocancourt for everything he was worth – not much as it turned out.

Ja Rule: While Ja might have had serious cash at one point in his recording career (back when he was legally mandated to appear on every single song of 1999), a lengthy tussle with the justice system, as well as the IRS, has left him with a small pittance of what he once had. Still, Ja seems to be intent on living the good life he deserves. He re-launched his once vaunted Murder Inc. Records in 2013 and could well have “Get the Money” again if it all works out.

Colin Kaepernick: When the 49ers quarterback signed a “record” seven-year, $126 million contract this summer, it appeared that the young QB would never need to hold a different job for the rest of his life. But one year in to the contract, things have already begun to appear differently. While the contract came with a $12.3 million signing bonus, Kaepernick only made $645,000 this year – with the Niners reserving the right to cut him before the beginning of each season without having to pay him any more guaranteed money. While $13 million is nothing to sneeze at, with the tax situation in California and the various expenditures of a superstar athlete (shoes), it might not equal that much.

John Spano: After working several low-level jobs in sales, Spano founded a small aircraft-leasing company in 1990. But Spano’s real goal in life was owning an NHL team, something that he wouldn’t let his complete lack of funds stand in the way of. In 1995, Spano reached a tentative agreement to buy 50 percent of the Dallas Stars, but kept pushing back the closing date, before the Stars eventually sold the team to someone else. But this didn’t deter Spano. In 1996, he bought 90% of the New York Islanders. On the day the first payment for the team was due however, Spano failed to send any money at all. Eventually, he wired $26,200 for the cable rights to the team, and $5,000 instead of a $5 million payment for part of the team’s ownership. Eventually, Spano was found out as a complete fraud, and stripped of any ownership of the team. It remains one of the most embarrassing moments in NHL history, which is saying something.

Joe Millionaire: This one is a little different than the others as Joe was put up to it, but the 2003 Fox television show (which will live in infamy) pitted women against one another over the right to marry a millionaire. And by millionaire, Fox meant unemployed construction worker posing as a millionaire. What a barrel of laughs! For six episodes, Evan Marriott, who the women were told had inherited a million dollars and was in search of a bride, got to go on dates Bachelor-style and walk around a French château that was supposedly his. At the end of the season, Marriot revealed he was not a millionaire. The winner was unimpressed, and they did not end up sticking together. 


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