The world is full of con artists and frauds who are highly skilled at playing people. Some of their victims are too trusting, some too gullible. But sometimes even the best of us can get taken in by a fraud who just went above and beyond to convince us that they were legitimate. If someone says all the right words and has all the right credentials, who are we to question them? The problem is when those credentials are fake and they lead to some serious chaos.
10. Fraudulent Pilots in Pakistan
In 2020 a plane crash in Pakistan killed 97 people. As part of the investigation into the cause of the crash, the airline began to investigate all of their pilots and discovered a truly harrowing statistic. About one third of all Pakistan International Airlines pilots were complete frauds. They had fake licenses and had no business flying planes.
The investigation determined that 262 pilots had either never taken a pilot’s exam and instead had paid someone else to take the test for them or cheated in some other way. In the end, 150 pilots were grounded.
The fatal crash in 2020 had been the result of pilot error though no one said specifically whether the pilots on board had real licenses or not. What was known was that air traffic control told them they were too high three times, but the pilots didn’t listen,and when they did try to land they didn’t lower the landing gear. Only two people survived.
This wasn’t the first time the problem had come up in Pakistan as a pilot two years earlier had caused a crash and the license he produced bore the date of a public holiday, outing it as a fake right away.
9. British Eye Surgeon John Taylor
English surgeon John Taylor lived in the 1700s and his major claim to fame is that, as an oculist or eye surgeon, he was able to treat famous composers George Frederic Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach. He didn’t treat them well, mind you, but he did treat you.
After finishing some brief medical training as a young man, Taylor set up a clinic in his hometown and did so poorly that his patients burned it down and assaulted him. He went on the road after that, got some more education for at least four different schools, and managed to talk himself up enough to become the eye doctor to the king.
As his reputation grew, he traveled town to town performing pubic surgeries and then leaving before people took their bandages off. By all accounts his area of expertise was quackery more than any real medicine, but he talked a good game and had an impressive pedigree that made people believe him.
His client list grew and eventually he treated Bach who had been steadily losing his vision,possibly as a result of diabetes. Taylor blinded him right away, but he died just four months later, possibly due to a post-surgical infection. When he moved onto Handel, he used a needle to stab him in the eye and push his cataract out of the way so he could see past it. That was the idea anyway. It didn’t work. And none of this was done with anesthesia or antibiotics, of course, because they didn’t exist yet.
Ironically, Taylor began losing his own vision as well, performed a surgery on himself, and then went totally blind as a result
8. Fake Deep Purple
If you’re a fan of classic rock, you know the band Deep Purple whose most famous song is arguably the heavy hitting “Smoke on the Water.” The band formed in the 1960s and were arguably some of the fathers of modern heavy metal. But there was also two of them for a short period of time which ended up leading to riots from fans who were not pleased by the confusion.
A man named Rod Evans had been the lead singer of Deep Purple when the band came together and auditioned singers to find the perfect front man. He was gone within a year. The band’s name was registered in the UK, and they even formed a company under the name in 1971. But in 1980 a different band registered the name Deep Purple as a trademark in the US. Rod Evans was in this band, but the rest of the musicians were actually from a knock off version of Steppenwolf.
The fake Deep Purple was formed by a management company that was just looking to capitalize on the name. Fans were not aware that they were getting a fake Deep Purple and when the band took the stage in Texas, crowds threw bottles and the show ended in 40 minutes. It got worse at later dates with some shows ending in riots. The scheme came to an end when the real Deep Purple got word and sued Evans for $672,000.
7. Fake Cop Doug Smith
You’ve probably heard stories of people pretending to be cops before. It happens quite a bit actually and usually takes the form of someone conducting traffic stops. In those cases it’s a regular joe acting alone trying to dupe the public into thinking they’re a cop. What’s much more unusual is what Doug Smith did.
Douglas J. Smith was hired as a police captain in Robbins, Illinois. The town had endured an almost unbelievable level of police incompetence sand corruption to that point. The prior chief had retired after being arrested for drunk driving. Sheriffs had investigated the town because it was reporting so few crimes and discovered evidence lockers full of untagged guns and unprocessed rape kits dating back decades. Smith was meant to set things straight. But he did not.
Smith faked his credentials to get his job. Not only that, the badge he supplied, allegedly from his job in Los Angeles, was actually the badge that belonged to the character Joe Friday from the show Dragnet. He was fired within three months after it was determined he had never worked as a police officer in any of the previous places he’d claimed to.
6. A Fake Forensic Psychologist
Psychologists and forensics experts are a staple on court TV dramas and movies. You can see them on Law and Order every other week. They’re also valuable witnesses in real life, too, provided they’re who they claim to be. Gene Morrison had been called on by courts to give expert testimony as a forensic psychologist for 27 years. He was a fraud, and he’d bought his credentials through the mail in 1977.
Over the years, Morrison made £250,000 from the government to work on cases on their behalf. He would contract some of the work out to real experts then take credit for it while charging more money. He even insisted on being called doctor during trial after he was caught.
Thanks to his lack of real expertise, the courts had to go back and review around 700 cases.
5. Australia’s Fake Lawyer
Dennis Jensen has been warned by Australian authorities that he will face extended jail time if he continued to pretend to be a lawyer. He was already sentenced to three months. This came from him advising a client accused of rape to contact the alleged victim despite an injunction against doing so. His terrible legal advice, owing to the fact he’s not a lawyer, got his client more charges.
Fake lawyering is a new career path for Jensen who previously made headlines as a fake cancer doctor whose patient died of ovarian cancer since he has no medical training either. He gave her a corrosive and illegal salve to eliminate the cancer which caused severe damage to her stomach.
4. The Fake Surgeon
Fake doctor stories are, tragically, not that uncommon, but India’s Om Pal is a next level fraud. He had stolen the credentials of a real doctor and proceeded to work as a doctor for an entire decade. During that time he performed surgeries, despite not being qualified to do so. According to him, he performed 70,000. His medical training was as a paramedic.
In a bizarre twist, the fraud came to light when someone tried to extort him for being a fraud and he told the police about it.
3. Jean-Claude Romand, the Murderous Fake Doctor
Some people will tell a lie and then, in an effort to conceal it, tell more and more lies. This can spiral out of control and in many cases the liar gets caught out and will suffer some personal or professional consequences. But a small percentage of these people spiral even further down. When lying isn’t enough, they will resort to violence to hide the truth at all costs.
Jean-Claude Romand claimed to be a doctor, but he was not. He spent 18 years living that lie pretending he worked for the World Health Organization. He made money by duping friends and family with fake investments.
In reality, Romand was in med school but never took the first year exams. Instead, he repeated his first year 12 times. When his lies were about to be exposed, Romand went on a killing spree. He killed his wife and then made his kids breakfast and watched a cartoon with them before killing them as well. Then he proceeded to his parents’ home and killed them, taking out anyone who could expose him as a liar.He even killed his parent’s dog.
He tried to kill himself in a fire but was rescued and later convicted of the murders.
2. Missionary Renee Bach
The urge to be charitable and altruistic is arguably not something enough people have and the world would be a better place if more of us helped one another. That said, you need to know how to help people before you try, and Renee Bach missed that part of the equation.
Bach was a missionary who, at just 19 years old, headed to Uganda to help the children there after doing some missionary work in high school. She set up a charity called Serving His Children in a house she had rented in a place called Jinja. Soon she was serving up to 1,000 hot meals, twice a week to local children. But at some point she went from feeding the hungry to treating them.
Locals say Bach wore a white lab coat and carried a stethoscope. Parents would bring sick and malnourished children to her for treatment, and she would take them in despite having no medical training at all. Children were dying on a weekly basis.
Bach wrote in her blog about treating the children, including administering IVs and oxygen. There was no mistaking that she had taken their medical care as her responsibility. In the end, 105 children died and Bach was sued by some of the parents for misrepresenting herself leading to the deaths of the children. She settled the case, paying $9,500 each to two mothers with no admission of liability.
1. Annie Dookhan, the Fraud Lab Tech
In 2017, Massachusetts courts had to drop over 21,000 drug convictions thanks to Annie Dookhan. Dookhan worked as a lab tech at the William A. Hinton State Laboratory Institute where she doctored lab results, forged signatures, and tampered with evidence to apparently just improve her overall standing as the best tech in the lab. Her falsified data led to all of the convictions which had to be thrown out.
Co-workers discovered she’d been padding her resume, claiming credentials she didn’t have like a Master’s degree. She removed the lie after getting caught, but then put it back later. Ironically, Dookhan did have the necessary skills to do her job, as the education she did have was adequate. But something compelled her to lie and go beyond the limits of reason. She spent three years in prison for her troubles.