Fraudapalooza — The Cheating Liars and the Things They Steal
Just like when Armageddon and Deep Impact came out in the same year and Volcano and Dante’s Peak did the same a year earlier, we always seem to get a glut of the same sort of idea hitting our screens at the same time. Looking around today shows you that the topic du jour is massively fraudulent thieves bilking people for hundreds of thousands to hundred of millions of dollars.
From Inventing Anna and The Dropout to multiple specials about the WeWork charlatans (not even counting The Vow about the cult NXIVM, whose documentary participants seemed to be angling for their own TV show regardless of being scammed themselves), watching unrepentant liars and possible psychopaths ruin the lives of others is all the rage. Every one of these stories makes my blood boil while at the same time drawing me in as I try to figure out what kind of people have the time, energy, and mental capacity to not only lie but lie so incredibly that it both captures the attention of the public but then sets off a cottage industry of movies and TV shows about the lying. Obviously, it usually takes a large scale fraud to even break the local news but recently even lower-level deception has been percolating up (E.g., Sherri Papini, below.)
Make no mistake, people have been pulling cons forever and will continue to do so until there are only two people left on the planet and one bilks the other over the last toasty cockroach. Cheaters and thieves and liars are just much more visible now than ever before.
In my own small niche in the world of endurance running we have so many runners out there trying to fake or swindle, even on the smallest stakes imaginable, that they have created entire threads on chat rooms and a side business for one guy called Marathon Investigation. The latter exposes (usually) serial cheaters who, for whatever reason, continue to cut courses in races in spite of routinely being shown to have done so. Don’t get me wrong, some of the cheaters are flat out stealing and are paying the consequences. But most are of the “I improved my personal best and finished 11,498th!” when they actually did neither but no one would remotely care if they weren’t bragging about it on Instagram (and that is probably most of the “why?!” answered right there. You know, the dopamine hits.)
I could list oodles of these low-level race cheaters I have encountered in my own travels but I will worry about that some other day. Instead, I am going to talk about something similar but definitely more in line with identity theft than stealing of money. Or at least I think that is all it is.
On my own personal Facebook page, I accepted a friend request a few years ago from a rather attractive woman, “Cordelia Hudson”, who not only seemed to be a runner but also despised Republicans as much as I did. That last part is pretty much a prereq for me accepting a request these days. Having deleted over 3,000 people in the past few years who followed me for my running or writing but who were despicable lovers of Fuckwork Orange, I realized that I had previously naively believed that knowing someone was a runner was enough for me to want them as a friend. I learned my lesson, hence the friend purge. So as I once again try to build a network of similar thinking people, non-Trump supporters is where I start for the very easy bar to get over. Cordelia met that criteria.
Every few days an extremely lengthy post from Cordelia would show up in my timeline and there would be dozens of men (and the occasional woman) who would reply in turn - some adding their own fairly thoughtful additions; others just adding variations of “You’re so beautiful! Inside AND out!”. But the vast majority of the commenters were just guys desperately hoping to snag a hottie or feel better about themselves because an attractive woman acknowledged them. You know, most of what comprises the internet.
A couple of times I tried to engage with Cordelia to try and suss out who they were, usually after they commented on a post of mine. I could see they have a vague LinkedIn page and a similarly vague twitter, all which echoed their claims of where they were employed (“Lead researcher scientist at Institut Gustave Roussy”) and their political viewpoints. They seemed rather worldly, and talented, and educated, and well-traveled, and every other thing one could want in a friend. My radar had gone off about them from the beginning about being a fraud (like the “branded and kidnapped jogger”, Sherri Papini — man I called that one!), but for the most part, if you hate Trump, I am probably going to let a lot of things slide.
The other day I posted some pictures from an art show I had participated in and Cordelia happened to go on a liking spree on my page. For whatever reason, this just made me very curious. So, while I watched the incomparably weird Deep Water, I did some searching to pass the time. For someone who posted SO many pictures, I was surprised how little record of Cordelia there was on the internet. What I did find, however, was a facebook page that seemed to express the same doubts I did about this being a real person. I then recalled she had posted a picture a year or so ago that I swore I had seen elsewhere. I recall searching for a minute or two to find where I had previously seen it, but gave up, chalking it up to just déjà vu of a pretty girl.
Then, while looking through her pictures I saw one where she was posed on a snowmobile. I realized the image had been flipped as the wording on the side was backward. I searched for this picture and nothing came up. Then, I had an idea. I flipped the picture so it was now the right way, did a reverse image search for it, and voila:
For at least two years, “Cordelia” has been stealing this model, Shea Marie’s pictures and passing them off as their own. More so, and even more repulsively, they have been concocting stories of woe and loss to go along with these stolen pictures. From full-on fake backstories for other people in the pictures, to the misnaming of those people (who are actually relationship partners to Shea Marie) as relatives for Cordelia, to her tales of losing a child to miscarriage, to her “husband” dying from cancer, to where they are from, to where they have lived, to what their occupation is, to everything else, it was clear it was a lie. All of it, complete and utter bullshit.
Now, I haven’t seen them try to bilk anyone for money, at least openly. There has been no GoFundMe, no requests for investors, and nothing else made to appeal to the minds and groins of her followers. This, of course, doesn’t mean they haven’t accepted gifts privately, but that’s nothing I can prove.
Then they posted another picture that I could tell was not Shea Marie. I did the same flipping of the picture (N.B. If an image doesn’t give you a result, flip it horizontally as that is apparently enough to fool Reverse Image Search on Google) and now they are using a yoga instructor named Ashley Galvin for this series of pictures, if not others. (They can’t use too many of Ashley as she has a rather telling tattoo that Shea does not. I hate that I know this.) They are also smart enough to say they are in the same location of the person whose pictures they are stealing, so at least they don’t erroneously post a picture of Costa Rica that is actually in the Lesser Antilles or something.
I have hesitated even telling this story for two reasons. First, I am fairly certain as soon as I post this, “Cordelia” will block me and I will no longer have access to her further fraud and duplicity. Second, whomever this person is obviously needs some professional help. I have no idea who they are, where they live, and why they are doing what they do. Outing them, so to speak, may do far more harm than good.
But jesus catfishing christ do I hate treacherous liars and con men. What bothers me even more is that it appears many people do not really feel the same. From those who “understood” Anna Delvey for taking it to the man to mutual “friends” on Facebook who I told about this Cordelia person who either shrugged it off or didn’t even reply to me, too many people think that this sort of thing is a victimless crime. At the very least, Cordelia is stealing the photographs of actual people and routinely claiming it is their own, even being so bold as to often say “This is mine. Don’t share it!” Of course they don’t want it shared. One of the people who actually took the picture might see it.
I guess I see this “meh” attitude of allowing liars and thieves to get away with whatever they want being akin to those who can’t accept their loved ones are not the good people they think they are. In other words, “Hey, your grandmother is an unrepentant racist because of [lists all the things she says]” and the retort is “Yeah, but she is the nicest lady because she knits sweaters for homeless kittens!” Possibly true about the kittens but irrelevant, nevertheless. I am sorry it’s your nana and therefore you want to stick up for her but she’s racist. Similarly, if you pretend you don’t care about liars, you can also shrug off evidence those you care about display bad tendencies.
Look, I get it. We don’t like to think we are foolish enough to have been had. But we all have, in one way or another, been played the fool many times in our lives. As Mark Vicente, one of the whistleblowers of the aforementioned NXIVM cult said, “We didn’t join a cult. Nobody joins a cult. We joined a movement to do good.” That speaks volumes to why we allow these type of people into our lives and then when they are found out, make excuses for them. It hurts our pride. It makes us feel halfwitted. It is easier to pretend the person we know did bad things must have had a reason or maybe those things aren’t so bad after all than it is to admit we were fooled.
So, what next? What do I want to achieve from this article? Ideally, it would be wonderful if “Cordelia” responded to me and told me who they actually were and why they were doing what they were doing. Then make a public apology for their behavior. It would be excellent if somehow this stopped a few people from going down this path of trying to trick others. It would be superb if I got a Netflix deal to turn this into a eight-episode show where I also talk about this entire charade, and also the time I was catfished well-over a decade ago myself. Believe me, I REALLY felt stupid.
I know, however, none of that is likely to happen.
Mostly, I guess I just miss my friend. Wait, no. That’s “Shawshank Redemption”. Perhaps what I am hoping for is some sort of gratification from the knowledge that I am not alone in caring about this sort of thing. That others too don’t just care about the grand cases of thievery but also the on-the-street chicanery. That I am not making a big deal out of nothing. That we are closer to the events in “Fresh” happening than we are not. That it does matter when people undercut our society as a whole by chipping away at the trust and goodwill of decent human beings.
Yeah, that would suit me just fine. Hopefully I can get that.
(Edit: As I was going to post this, Cordelia posted something else. This time it was of her supposed niece with the pictures taken by Becky Jameson. I am not sure if I am more appalled she is using children for her fake stories or she couldn’t come up with a better name after stealing the pictures from Jamie Beck. Either way, I no longer feel any compunction about whether this fraud should be purged from social media.)
EDIT 03.31.2022: Took “her” two days (and me posting the link to this article to her pictures) but Cordelia blocked me on Facebook. Not surprising. But still disappointing as I will likely get zero resolution to this incident. Especially since, after reporting her account to Facebook, they declined to take it down, in spite of the obvious fraud.