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4 Impersonators You Won't Forget

The Tangled Web of Deception

David Hampton and Will Smith 

Most of us know about Frank Abagnale, one of the greatest impersonators of all time. His crimes were chronicled in the Spielberg movie Catch Me If You Can, where he is portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio. He eventually made millions as a white collar crime consultant for the FBI. But, there have been other famous criminal impersonators who didn't have a successful endgame. David Hampton was a 19-year-old kid when he and a friend were denied admittance to a ritzy Manhattan nightclub. He returned to the line, and when he got up to the front, he told the bouncer he was the son of Sidney Poitier. This began a career for Hampton. He would show up at first-class restaurants without a reservation and claim he was there to meet his father. He would finish his meal, feign disappointment with his father's no-show, and sign for the meal, charging it to Poitiers. Then, as David Poitier, he began setting up wealthy and famous New Yorkers. He would claim he was mugged, had given up all his money, and beg for a place to stay. His victims included Calvin Klein and Gary Sinise, among others. In 1990 he was immortalized in the film, Six Degrees of Separation, where he is portrayed by Will Smith. His David Poitier ploy was blown. He continued to impersonate others until 1993 when he died of AIDS.

Biography of George Duphrey

George Duprey didn't impersonate anyone. Instead, he gave himself a false biography. His self-written exploits during WWII made him one of Canada's greatest war heroes. He traveled across Canada giving presentations of his daring exploits as a spy for the Special Operations Executive. He described the horrible tortures he underwent as a captive of the Gestapo, working with the French resistance, and other stories of his time spent behind enemy lines. His tales became known internationally when the book The Man Who Wouldn't Talk was published. None of it ever happened, and with the publication of the book, people came forward to testify that Duprey had spent the entire war in London as a clerk. He donated all of the money he earned through his falsehoods to the Canadian Scouts. The book, originally listed as a biography, had to be redesignated as a work of fiction. 

Christian Gerthartsreiter

Christian Gerhartsreiter was a German Citizen who moved to the US in 1979. He wanted to be an actor and was able to pull off one of the greatest acting jobs of all time. He headed for California and changed his name to Clark Rockefeller. From 1985 until 2006, he was able to pass himself off as a member of THE Rockefeller family. His wife of 11 years began to suspect he was not being forthright and prompted an investigation into his name. She divorced him in 2006. He went to Boston and kidnapped their daughter in 2008. He was arrested, and other duplicitous names arose, including the name Christopher Chichester, who was wanted as a person of interest in a double homicide. Gerhartsreiter had murdered a married couple related to his one-time landlord. He was prosecuted for one murder because only one body was found. He is serving 27 years in a California prison.

James Hogue

It is really hard to encapsulate the life of James Hogue. He was born in 1959 to an obscure working-class family. At 25, he went back to high school, joined the track team, and won a prestigious race. When he didn't turn up to the awards ceremony, he was exposed by a reporter who found that suspicious. In 1987, he applied to Princeton and was accepted as a freshman, but he had to delay his arrival for a year so he could serve nine months in a Utah jail for stealing $20,000 worth of bicycle parts from an exclusive maker. Once arriving at Princeton, now in his 30s, he accepted $22,000 in scholarship money. He joined the track team and was recognized by someone he attended high school with, and again his cover was blown. He served 191 days in jail. In 1992 he was employed as a security guard at a Harvard University museum thanks to some of his Princeton professors who saw him as an intellectual denied his true path because of an extreme past.  He was arrested for stealing $50,000 in gems, minerals, and a very expensive microscope. He served less than a year again.  In 1996, he was busted for a parole violation after being caught on Princeton property. After being released in 1997, he stole $100,000 worth of building equipment and tools from a homeowner having remodeling done, and in 2017, he was arrested for building a shack used for a home on Aspen Mountain on property he didn't own. He was given a sentence of 6 years. Both a documentary and a book were written about Hogue. They are entitled Con Man and The Runner, respectively.

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