Conned by … Keanu?

By Nate Hendley

According to this story, a woman in Ontario transferred $2,700 to a con-man on Twitter claiming to be actor Keanu Reeves. The Matrix Star said he was filming in Turkey and for whatever reason, couldn’t access his bank account. Would the lady be so kind as to wire him some quick cash? Being a Hollywood big-shot, Keanu promised to pay it all back.

Western Union refused to make the transfer. They told the woman she was clearly being scammed. Undaunted, she went to her bank. Bank officials told her the same thing. After she pestered them, they finally made the transfer. Needless to say, it wasn’t Keanu Reeves asking her for funds. And she never saw her money again.

This article is a reminder why even the most ridiculous cons (such as the Nigerian Prince email) will never go away. A tiny number of people continue to fall for them–which is all the motivation scammers need to keep at it. Like persistent salesmen, they know that the secret of a good con is volume. Hit up enough people, and eventually someone will buy your product or service–no matter how useless or fraudulent it might be.

My book, The Big Con, covers a wide a variety of hustles, hoaxes and swindles, some as foolish sounding as the Keanu Reeves story.

The Big Con is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and at the website of publisher ABC-CLIO

(Nate Hendley is a Toronto-based author who has written several true-crime books. My website offers more details about my books and background).

“The Big Con” Gets Good Review

By Nate Hendley

My book, The Big Con: Great Hoaxes, Frauds, Grifts and Swindles in American History, received a very positive review in The Miramachi Reader.

Here are some choice selections from the review:

“The Big Con is a big book, almost 400 pages, and as such, it is very authoritative, making it a great reference book to have for those who enjoy reading true crime, crime fiction, or who are born skeptics and get a certain “kick” out reading how easily people can be fooled.”

“Very readable The Big Con is one of those books that you can pick up and start reading anywhere. There is an extensive bibliography at the back for further reading suggestions. Mr Hendley has done sceptics a genuine courtesy by assembling the history of frauds, cons, scams and hoaxes into one beautiful volume.”

Here is the review:

The Big Con is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble and at the website of publisher ABC-CLIO

(Nate Hendley is a Toronto-based author who has written several true-crime books. His website – – offers more details about his books and background).

Black Donnellys Film Screening a Hit!

By Nate Hendley

I had a great time at the October 20 Toronto screening of the new movie, Black Donnellys.

Directed by Aaron Huggett and filmed with a cast of volunteers in Southern Ontario, this 45-minute short feature depicts the violent, true story of the ill-fated Donnelly family. The Donnellys were a big, brawling Irish-Canadian clan that feuded with their neighbours for decades in 19th Century Lucan, Ontario, with grim results. Fed-up neighbours formed a “vigilance society” and a massacre resulted–for which no one was ever convicted.

As far as I know, this is the first movie ever made about the tragic Donnelly case.

I detailed these horrible events in my book, The Black Donnellys: The Outrageous Tale of Canada’s Deadliest Feud available through Chapter’s Indigo , Barnes and Noble, (Canada), (United States) and publisher Lorimer.

The screening took place at the Royal Cinema in Toronto. The theatre was packed and the audience very receptive to the movie.

I was part of a panel that took to the stage after the screening to discuss the film and answer questions from those in attendance. My fellow panelists were all cast and crew members of the movie. Their ranks included director/writer Huggett.

More screenings are to be held across Southern Ontario in the next few days. Hopefully, more packed houses will ensue. A full-length Donnelly movie or a TV mini-series would be a great next step.

For film deets visit

(Nate Hendley is a Toronto-based author who has written several true-crime books. His website – – offers more details about his books and background).

Black Donnellys Film Panel Discussion Toronto Oct. 20

By Nate Hendley

I will be taking part in a panel discussion at an October 20, 2017 screening of an independent movie about the ill-fated Black Donnellys in Toronto.

The Donnellys were a brawling Irish-Canadian family who feuded with their neighbours for decades in 19th Century Lucan, Ontario, with grim results. Fed-up neighbours formed a vigilante group and a massacre ensued–for which no one was ever convicted.

I detailed these horrible events in my book, The Black Donnellys: The Outrageous Tale of Canada’s Deadliest Feud available through Chapter’s Indigo, Barnes and Noble, (Canada), (United States) and publisher Lorimer.

The screening takes place at the Royal Cinema, 608 College Street, Toronto, starting at 7 pm.

The panel will include members of the cast and film director/writer Aaron Huggett.

For film deets visit

(Nate Hendley is a Toronto-based author who has written several true-crime books. His website – – offers more details about his books and background).

Fun and Sun at Toronto’s Word on the Street Literary Festival

By Nate Hendley

I had much fun at Toronto’s Word on the Street literary festival, held September 24, 2017, at Harbourfront Centre.

The heat was insane (Toronto went through a very unseasonal heat-wave in mid to late September, with temperatures over 30C, or into the 90F range for people who don’t follow metric) but spirits were high.

I did a shift at the booth for the Toronto chapter of the Professional Writers Association of Canada (a fine, national organization representing freelance, non-fiction writers). Then I worked the booth for the Crime Writers of Canada (which represents fiction and non-fiction crime writers). This photo was taken at the CWC booth.

I also got a chance to talk to reps from various publishing houses, magazines, etc.

Am impressed to see that despite dire warnings of the demise of reading and writing in general, a strong publishing sector was on full display at Harbourfront.

Kudos to the organizers, the volunteers and all those who turned up to listen to speakers and check out booths, despite the sweltering sun and weirdly intense heat.

(Nate Hendley is a Toronto-based crime writer. His website is located at


Interview with TIME – 50 Years of “Bonnie & Clyde” (the Movie)

By Nate Hendley

I was interviewed recently by TIME magazine’s online edition about the 50th anniversary of the release of Bonnie and Clyde, the classic 1967 film about the infamous Depression-era bandits.

I was asked how realistic the movie’s depiction of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow really was. The film showed the two as passionate lovers and bank robbers, striking a blow for the common people.

The reality, as I wrote in my book, Bonnie and Clyde: A Biography, was considerably different.

Here are some choice selections from the TIME article, which was posted August 11, 2017 under the title, “What to Know About the Real Crimes Behind Bonnie and Clyde”:

“Today, their names live on in headlines as nicknames for any male and female partners in crime — real or metaphorical. But, 50 years after Bonnie and Clyde stole American hearts in the movie starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, many myths about the criminal couple persist, thanks in large part to that film.”

“[Clyde] fancied himself something of a latterday Robin Hood, robbing only banks that were foreclosing on poor farmers and eventually turning into a kind of folk hero,” TIME’s original review of the film declared.

“However, the motives of the real Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were “much more nefarious and self-serving,” says Nate Hendley, author of Bonnie and Clyde: A Biography. “In reality, they never robbed banks,” he says. “They hit up low-hanging fruit. They robbed small-town grocery stores and gas stations, where working people or poor people would [shop].”

“But just how bad Bonnie was remains a matter for debate. She apparently didn’t mean for those photos to get out into the public, and Hendley says she would claim that the cigar was just a prop and that, while she was holding a gun in that photo, she didn’t actually shoot anyone. More likely, Hendley says, she was “an accomplice, reloading guns and generally helping.” Another matter up for debate is whether they were actually lovers: no one has confirmed whether the real Bonnie and Clyde “were dating or just traveling companions,” he says.

“Hendley also points out that the fact that the movie portrays them in a “heroic light” makes the movie a product of its time, in that it embodies “the spirit of rebellion” of the 1960s.”

“A more realistic depiction,” he says, “would have portrayed them as scumbags.”

For the complete article in TIME magazine, click here.

Bonnie and Clyde: A Biography is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and publisher ABC-CLIO.

(Nate Hendley is a Toronto-based freelance writer and author. He has written several true-crime books. For more information about his books and background, visit his website at

True-Crime Presentations by Nate

By Nate Hendley

For anyone interested, I do presentations based around my true-crime books.

I have given presentations in libraries, bookstores, schools, and retirement homes across Ontario.

My presentations generally last one hour. I require no special equipment, although a lectern and microphone are always appreciated.

My two main presentations are:

Cons, Scams and Frauds

This presentation is built around my book, The Big Con (published 2016 by ABC-CLIO).

The presentation examines con artists and scams, from Charles Ponzi (from whom we get the term “Ponzi scheme”) to Bernie Madoff, the Nigerian Prince email (in which random recipients receive an unsolicited email supposedly from a Nigerian royal figure, about a great business opportunity), old-fashioned scams, such as the “pig-in-a-poke” and “money machine” frauds and other forms of financial deceit.

The lecture is informative and entertaining, with an overall message intended to warn people about potential scams and how to avoid being ripped off.

“Nate Hendley recently gave a talk about cons and scams at our Probus Club. I found that the presentation was very well researched and documented. Nate’s style of delivery is very engaging and informative. Our members really enjoyed the presentation; it was one of the best of the year. It’s obvious that Nate is very well qualified in his area of expertise.”
Kerry Long, Probus Club of Kitchener Waterloo, Ontario

Steven Truscott: Decades of Injustice

This presentation is built around my book of the same name, which looked at the tragic case of a small-town Ontario teenager wrongfully convicted of murder in 1959.

I charge reasonable rates and can present anywhere in the Greater Toronto Area. For more information, contact me at:

“Trust Me. Don’t Trust the Experts” (aka, The Con Artist’s Mantra)

By Nate Hendley

Years ago as a journalist, I covered a seminar in Toronto by a group that claimed Canadians weren’t legally obliged to pay income tax.

The group outlined various unconvincing ways to evade Revenue Canada and offered convoluted explanations as to why citizens need not give the taxman his due. These explanations largely rested on cockeyed readings of obscure court cases and constitutional documents.

What struck me was the way the group framed its message. The speakers acknowledged their methods were odd and their evidence shaky. But that didn’t matter, because they had The Truth on their side. Everyone else—mainstream tax lawyers, bankers and journalists—was lying. Trust us, don’t trust the experts, insisted the organizers.

I’m not sure how many people in attendance actually tried to use the group’s tax evasion techniques, but the underlying message was Con Artistry 101. As every skillful scammer knows, to rob a “mark” it’s vital to limit their access or appreciation of reliable information.

Skip forward a few years and “don’t trust the experts” is the reigning mantra of the day. Large numbers of people think the mainstream media peddles “fake news” and depend on conspiracy websites, angry TV hosts, blogs and social media for information. The medical wisdom of celebrities is valued over learned opinions from experienced doctors. Get-rich-quick schemes flourish, despite dubious legality and slim-to-zero success rates.

People can believe any foolishness they want. Anyone who ignores reliable information, however, is setting themselves up to be fleeced.

Take the tax meeting. While I got in for free as a journalist, everyone else had to pay. And what they paid for was a coming attractions trailer for the main feature. If you were really serious, you had to sign up for pricey follow-up seminars, books and brochures outlining various shady tax avoidance tactics that were sure to fail. Anyone who gets cute with their return can expect intense scrutiny or worse. “In some cases the CRA will act to have individuals prosecuted for tax evasion. The CRA targets and deals with the people who promote tax schemes,” warns the Canada Revenue Agency website.

On another assignment, I met some individuals who belonged to a “business” program that guaranteed “freedom” and wealth, or so they claimed. I did some digging and discovered the program was actually a pyramid scheme (which are illegal in Canada, and involve duping other people to join a “sales team” to sell a product or service). This scheme involved selling taped anti-government lectures instead of Tupperware. I can’t imagine a less enticing product to hawk.

None of this is to suggest the mainstream press is perfect, that tax lawyers sometimes get things wrong and financial advisors occasionally offer bad advice. History is replete with cases where banks refused to fund a brilliant invention that went on to conquer its field. But history is also full of cases where banks turned down projects that were stupid or downright illegal.

As biased as the Wall Street Journal might be, it’s vastly more trustworthy than a conspiracy blog ranting about Jewish financial cabals. Any decent bank will warn against transferring $10,000 to a Prince from Nigeria who emailed you about a fantastic business opportunity. A good accountant will find legal deductions for their clients instead of feeding them nonsense about how the British North America Act forbids income tax.

Rule of thumb: when someone tells you, “Trust me. Don’t trust the experts” it’s a good sign they’re deluded or trying to con you.

(Nate Hendley is a Toronto based reporter and author of several true-crime books, including The Big Con: Great Great Hoaxes, Frauds, Grifts, and Swindles in American History . His website is located at

Dear Facebook …

Dear Facebook,

I’ve been meaning to write you for a while about the large number of beautiful young women who want to “friend” me on Facebook. I get these requests on a regular basis. The ladies who send them seem fond of using pin-up glam photos in their profiles. Otherwise, their profiles are oddly barren of background details or notices about other posts. Stranger yet, when I don’t respond, these requests seem to vanish after a day or two.

While it might seem flattering so many attractive young women want to befriend a 50 year-old crime writer, I’m starting to suspect a ruse.

You see, I wrote a book called The Big Con: Great Hoaxes, Frauds, Grifts and Swindles in American History that talks about this very thing.

Back in 2011, University of North Carolina physics professor Paul Frampton made an unusual match on an online dating site. Frampton, in his 60s, received an invite from a 32 year-old Bolivian bikini model named Denise.

Communication ensued between the smitten Frampton and the luscious model. Denise told Frampton she wanted a mature man in her life. Men her age only cared about her body (prominently displayed in her profile pictures).

Frampton agreed to visit Denise in Bolivia. So excited was he, Frampton didn’t even bother talking to his sweetie over the phone in advance of his trip.

Frampton arrived in Bolivia to discover Denise had left for a last-minute model shoot in Belgium. She left an apologetic note asking him to meet her there, and bring a suitcase she foolishly left behind. Frampton obliged and was promptly busted when customs officials discovered two kilos of cocaine in the suitcase. He served several months in an awful prison and no longer works for the University of North Carolina.

It’s safe to say he was set up by an international drug gang.

Frampton wrote about his experiences in a book you can buy here.

Now, Facebook, I’m not suggesting there’s any similar malarkey going on with all these invites I keep getting from lovely young women with come-hither profile photos.

Just don’t expect me to travel anywhere soon and pick up any suitcases.

The Big Con is available through publisher ABC-CLIO, Amazon and Barnes and Noble among other outlets.

(Nate Hendley is a Toronto writer and author of several books, primarily in the true-crime genre. His website at offers more details about his professional and personal background).

Interview about Dutch Schultz for Hudson Valley Legends Podcast

By Nate Hendley

Dutch Schultz

I was interviewed for the podcast Hudson Valley Legends (which focuses on New York state lore) about NYC gangster Dutch Schultz, subject of one of books. The podcast went live March 6, 2017.

Here’s a link to the podcast:

Dutch Schultz (real-name Arthur Flegenheimer) was a highly eccentric, highly successful Jewish-American gangster. He rose to prominence peddling awful bootleg beer during Prohibition in the 1920s. His product was lousy but his sales methods were persuasive (when faced with a stubborn speakeasy manager, Schultz had the man kidnapped, hung by his thumbs from a meat-hook and tortured).

If beer made Schultz rich and powerful, it was ‘numbers’ that pushed him into the criminal stratosphere. The numbers racket was simply an illegal lottery. People bet on a three-digit combination, from 000 to 999. The gangsters who ran the racket selected winning digits on the basis of objective statistics, such as sports scores. Anyone who had bet on the winning numbers received a small cash payment. He also moved into drug trafficking, prostitution and labour extortion.

For all his success, Schultz did not last long at the top of the underworld.

Read my book to find out why.

Dutch Schultz: The Brazen Beer Baron of New York, is available through (Canada) (United States), Chapter’s, Barnes and Noble and publisher Five Rivers.

The story of Dutch Schultz is also detailed in my book, American Gangsters: Then and Now which is available through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google Books and publisher ABC-CLIO.