My colleagues and I have this rhetoric at work whereby, as deadline looms, we imagine how far into the ill-fated Fyre Festival we are. While we don’t envisage GRAZIA to ever be a disaster, any editor will tell you the days leading up to print are very stressful. “The white tents have been erected” says one editor. “Same. But it hasn’t flooded yet,” says another. “Oh, I’ve just got my mattress and its soaking,” says one freelancer who we swear wasn’t a part of this game but alas, here we are. “I’m in the canteen line waiting for my cheese sandwich,” says a fourth member of the team. “What happens if the magazine is printed and we find ourselves in an Andy King situation where someone will have to ‘take one for the team’ to right the typo on the cover?”
The intrigue surrounding bro-ish entrepreneur Billy McFarland is so big that his fraudulent Fyre Fest was portrayed in not one but two documentaries this Australian summer. It was all any of us could talk about in the same way we couldn’t stop talking about Belle Gibson, the Australian fraudster who extraordinarily faked having cancer in order to sell her wellness app.
Elizabeth Holmes is another example. She’s the founder of a health-care start-up called Theranos in the States who, for decades gipped her employees and investors into believing her blood-test technology would change the medical industry. It doesn’t exist. And even more weirdly, her low, baritone voice is apparently fake so as to appear more successful. She doesn’t blink either, ever. It’s both fascinating and disturbing. But what is it about stories surrounding schemers that has us hooked?
An article in the New York Times offered the best explanation. “[Scam stories’] flagrant dishonesty captures public imagination. Their stories allow us to vicariously live out our worst urges, but they also present us with open-and-shut arcs that show crim doesn’t pay (in a world that, more often than not, suggests it does”.
The College Scandal starring Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman truly sounds like a good movie. But it’s real life, which actually makes it even more exciting. Last week, more than thirty wealthy parents – CEOS, finance big wigs, top lawyers – were charged with buying entry to a series of schools for their children who were, let’s say, academically middling. Loughlin and Huffman were spectacularly arrested (there are unconfirmed reports guns were drawn at their houses) and bail was set in at over a million. Like all good fraud stories, it’s the length these people go to commit the fraud in the first place – and then their attempts at not getting caught. Here are some interesting facts to talk to your colleagues about by the water cooler. Perhaps you can even come up with a game like my team.
- The government team assigned to investigate the college scandal have been working on this assignment since 2011. Said assignment was called “Operation Varsity Blues”. Does it have to be so literal?
- The man who ran the scheme, William Singer, helped parents falsify exam results of their usually unsuspecting children. He would then bribe college officials and recommend paying students as athletes. The problem was none of them were.
- Loughlin and her husband Mossimo Giannulli reportedly paid US $500 thousand for their daughters to get into college. They entered U.S.C. as crew coxswains even though no one really believes either girl had ever even been in a rowboat.
- When Singer informed Huffman that the proctor who took the SATs for one of her daughters had a baby, she replied “Awww”.
- Singer once Photoshopped a client’s son onto the body of a footballer so he would look the part. He didn’t even play the sport.
- Loughlin’s daughter Olivia Jade has lost her ambassadorships, her biggest including Sephora. The family are now reportedly living a nightmare and Loughlin faces five years in jail.
- In 2018, Singer was fitted with a wire. Yes, he himself was bribed by the government to record conversations with persons of interest.
- Loughlin’s television show let her go. When Calls The Heart on the Hallmark channel is having a “creative hiatus” to work out where the script now goes without her.
- Olivia Jade is a prominent influencer in the States. On a resurfaced 2017 YouTube video, Loughlin jokes about how expensive her university fees are. “If you would’ve said ‘England is my city,’ ” Loughlin began, “I would say ‘Why did I pay all this money for your education?’”