Joanne the Scammer, the fur-clad, blonde social media personality that parodies white women fraudsters, is wildly popular with millions of followers. Joanne’s creator Branden Miller seems to have tapped into something very real: a subculture of subterfuge and glamor.
Whether they’re lying their way into luxury hotel rooms or using their charm to drain the bank accounts of hapless men, grifters and con artists everywhere live by the golden rule of “fake it til you make it.”
You might have seen their names in the history books or in the headlines. Here are five female grifters who have scammed their way to notoriety.
1. Anna Delvey
Trips around the world. Luxury hotel stays. Expensive personal trainers.
Anna Delvey, real name Anna Sorokin, seemed to have it all — but it was an act, according to this recent explosive profile by The Cut. Sorokin apparently conned her way into pop culture notoriety by pretending to be a wealthy German heiress and scamming everyone around her. Sorokin’s lifestyle — one that allegedly included getting her associates to foot the bill for $60,000 vacations and making friends with the likes of Macaulay Culkin — seems like something that could only exist in movies.
Sorokin, who was born in Russia to working class parents, seemingly invented this life for herself in the New York social scene.
Sorokin was indicted on charges of attempted grand larceny in the first degree, grand larceny in the second and third degrees, and theft of services in October, for stealing approximately $275,000 through multiple scams between November 2016 and August 2017, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. announced last year.
She rejected a plea deal in January, Patch reports, and could face up to 15 years behind bars if convicted, according to the New York Post. Sorokin is currently being held without bail at Rikers Island.
2. Kari Ferrell
Kari Ferrell — real name Kari Ensor — became known as the “hipster grifter” after she allegedly scammed her way into a job at Vice in 2009. She lasted only a week until a coworker did a quick Google search after she flirted with him.
Those initial suspicions were more than justified, as revealed in the Observer’s profile; while she pretended to have experience working behind the scenes in the music industry, Ferrell, then 22, had actually spent much of her adult life scamming the people around her, particularly bearded hipsters with whom she’d strike up intense relationships.
These men alleged that she had lied about everything from pregnancy to cancer, and by the time her lies caught up to her, she had earned a spot on the Salt Lake City Police Department’s Most Wanted list for crimes including forgery, retail theft, and writing $60,000 in bad checks.
She served six months in a Utah jail for mail fraud and forgery in 2009, after pleading guilty to a third-degree felony forgery count and several more misdemeanors, Philly.com reports.
Ferrell was back in action as recently as January of this year. Refinery29 writer Connie Wang revealed on Twitter that the notorious hipster grifter had tried to gain access to New York Fashion Week by pretending to be a writer for Refinery29. (Shockingly, it almost worked.) Old habits really do die hard.
3. The Chechen Women Who Conned The Islamic State
Catfishing isn’t anything new, but catfishing ISIS? “Risky” is an understatement. Still, three women in Chechnya, a largely Muslim republic in Russia, became internet legends when they scammed ISIS fighters out of thousands of dollars in 2015.
The three women pretended to be interested in becoming “jihadi brides,” The Telegraph reports, but when ISIS fighters in Syria sent them money to cover their travel, the women kept the money and then either closed their accounts or blocked their extremist suitors on social media. The women were able to make around $3,300 before they were caught by Chechen police, RT News reports, and detained on fraud charges.
4. Yvonne Bannigan
By all accounts, Yvonne Bannigan had a bright future. Originally from Dublin, Bannigan built a promising career for herself in the fashion world, having interned for Elle magazine and Zac Posen before signing on as an assistant for Vogue creative director-at-large (and fashion icon) Grace Coddington in 2016. Unfortunately for Bannigan though, her dream life came crashing down when she was arrested in April.
The 25-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen was accused of making $53,564 worth of unauthorized purchases using Coddington’s credit card, and selling Coddington's belongings on luxury consignment site RealReal for $9,000, Buzzfeed reports.
Bannigan may face felony charges of larceny, Buzzfeed reports, but Bannigan’s attorney, Michael Cornacchia, told the Sunday Independent earlier this month that his client has not yet been formally charged. Bannigan maintains her innocence; in fact, Cornacchia told reporters that Bannigan encouraged Coddington to go to the police with her concerns about fraudulent charges.
“Yvonne is not disheartened but ever more determined to fight these false charges with the support of her family and her legal defense team,” Cornacchia said.
5. Princess Caraboo
Before the likes of Anna Delvey and Kari Ferrell, there was Princess Caraboo. Born on the English countryside as Mary Baker, the so-called princess began spinning her web of lies in the early 18th century in a small village located near Bristol, England, where she scammed the locals into believing she was lost royalty by wearing a turban and speaking a made-up language, Time reports.
Baker pretended to be a princess from the faraway island of Javasu, and claimed to have arrived in the small English village after being kidnapped by pirates, jumping overboard, and swimming the English Channel until she made it to safety.
With the help of a co-conspirator who was, miraculously, the only one able to understand her “language,” Baker wormed her way into the hearts of the locals, who treated her like the royalty she claimed to be by allowing her to live in people’s homes as an honored guest. Baker’s made-up life unraveled, however, after someone who knew Baker from her old life recognized her in newspaper coverage of the so-called princess, according to a retelling of her story by The Vintage News.
[Photo: Stock photo of model posing with money, via Getty Images]