There have been people seeking to cheat others since the start of human history. As a result, it should come as no surprise to learn that there have been a lot of con artists, including a fair number who have managed to establish themselves in the popular imagination through their sheer gall. Here are 20 of the most notorious con artists over the whole course of human history listed in no particular order:
William Chaloner was an English counterfeiter in a time when counterfeiting was a crime that could result in capital punishment. This is because counterfeiting could reduce public confidence in currencies, which could have catastrophic economic consequences on a sufficient scale in a time with much weaker institutions than the present. However, it is interesting to note that he was involved with a number of other less than reputable activities as well, with examples ranging from acting as an agent provocateur to selling fake cures for various medical problems. In the end, Chaloner became such a huge problem that he was brought down by Issac Newton of scientific fame, who conducted a thorough investigation using spies, contacts, and informants before bringing Chaloner to trail before what was called a “hanging judge.” As a result, it should come as no surprise to learn that Chaloner was executed in 1699, having failed to escape the hangman’s noose by pretending to be mad while he was in prison.