One con artist called himself Luc Sonnet. He claimed to be a fine artist who studied with Picasso and sold his paintings to wealthy international clients for as much as $250,000.
The other con artist, Robert Freegard, claimed to be a British spy. He tracked international terrorists.
Both of these con artists were profiled in the media on Sunday, December 2. The Philadelphia Inquirer newspaper began its story about Luc Sonnet, whose real name was Richard Grossman, on the front page. The story continued inside for three more full pages.
Dateline, the investigative reporting television show produced by NBC News, told the story of Robert Freegard, a Brit who abducted an American woman and held several other people hostage with his lies. The story originally aired in July 2007—on Sunday it appeared on MSNBC.
Both Grossman and Freegard were proficient liars. They able to extract money from their victims, and keep their victims under their control, using a combination of charm, threats and brainwashing. In my opinion, both guys are classic psychopaths. But once again, the media did not identify the reason for their behavior.
For an up close and personal look at this outrageous con artist, I recommend the Inquirer story, called The Art of the Con. Read it right away—the article is available free for a limited time. (It will then be available in the archive for a small fee.)
According to the newspaper, Richard Grossman scammed major financial institutions out of nearly $18 million in the early 1990s. How? He claimed to be Dr. Richard C. Grossman, Ph.D., and he was going to open a lucrative practice dispensing psychological advice over the telephone. Most of the money was spent building himself a mansion.
When prosecuted, Grossman admitted that what he did was wrong, but claimed he was “eccentric.” A psychologist noted his keen intelligence, and said his record—the $18 million scam wasn’t his first—”suggests difficulties approaching psychotic or schizophrenic-like proportions.”
Due to his mental illness, prosecutors requested a prison term half as long as his crime warranted. Upon his release, Grossman started claiming to be a famous painter and invented the Luc Sonnet persona.
Unfortunately, a series of women who met him on dating websites believed his stories. Once they were hooked, Grossman pressured them for money. One woman left the country to escape him. Another’s family paid Grossman $24,000 to leave her alone.
It wasn’t only women that Grossman conned. He convinced several galleries to show his work—most of which looked like it was printed off a computer. Theaters agreed to host his “performance art” shows. And several newspapers published his pack of lies in complimentary stories.
In an episode entitled The spy who loved her, Dateline told the story of Robert Freegard, a used car salesman who claimed the job was a cover for his real work—spying. The transcript of the show is available on the MSNBC website.
Kim Adams was an American with a Ph.D. in psychology. She moved to England because she always wanted to live abroad, and that’s where she met Freegard. He sold her a car. Eventually, he started asking Adams out, and then gradually let her in on his secret—he worked for MI5, Britain’s counter-intelligence and security agency. He invited Adams to join the service, but she’d have to borrow $35,000 from her parents to do it. The parents wired the money—and then Adams vanished.
This wasn’t the first time Freegard used the spy story. He convinced three college students that they were being pursued by the IRA—and he was the only one who could protect them. This required money, and the students paid him more than $1 million.
Several other women were also scammed—but one of them called the police. This led to the FBI getting involved in the disappearance of Kim Adams. The American woman was rescued—after her mother worked with the FBI to set up a sting and arrest Freegard.
Psychopaths in action
Both of these stories provide a detailed look at a psychopath in action. Unfortunately, neither the Inquirer nor Dateline identified the personality disorder.
Perhaps the reporters didn’t recognize the problem—after all, most reporters are as ignorant about psychopaths as the millions of people who get victimized every year. Grossman, of course, had already fooled a psychologist and a prosecutor. And Adams, who was abducted by Freegard, was herself a psychologist.
Or maybe media lawyers advised against calling these con artists “psychopaths” or “sociopaths.” I’ve heard of several cases where that has happened.
So these two stories—Grossman and Freegard—were treated by the media as fantastical aberrations. The cases are admittedly extreme—but not all that unusual. Nearly 700 people have contacted Lovefraud with their own stories of victimization by psychopaths.
Psychopathic predators are everywhere. I just wish the media would start telling people.