Victor Lustig is among the most skilled con artists in history. The notorious scammer even went so far as to convince someone to buy the Eiffel Tower for scrap — not once, but on two separate occasions. Lustig was born in Austria-Hungary in 1890, and spent the first several decades of his life swindling people for modest sums of money. In 1925, he took his conning to a whole new level, as he arrived in Paris with eyes set on the Eiffel Tower. Lustig assumed the identity of a French government official and even created fake stationery with a government emblem. He then invited several scrap metal dealers to the Hôtel de Crillon, where he announced that the Eiffel Tower was too expensive to repair and would instead be sold for scrap to the highest bidder.
Lustig’s story convinced a man named André Poisson to pay 70,000 francs (upwards of $250,000 today) for the scrap. The con artist then fled to Austria with the money, and Poisson was so embarrassed that he never contacted the police. In the ensuing weeks, Lustig kept a close eye on Parisian newspapers and realized that his scheme was never reported, so he decided to attempt the scam once more. While he successfully convinced another buyer to close the deal, suspicions grew and police were finally alerted. By the time law enforcement attempted to capture Lustig, however, he had fled to America, where he continued conning people. He was ultimately captured by U.S. federal officials in 1935, and sentenced to 20 years in Alcatraz prison.