Thursday, May 13, 2021

Stanley Clifford Weyman -- Con Artist And Imposter

Stanley Clifford Weyman, the three sons of Princess Fatima Sultana of Afghanistan, Princess Fatima, and Prince Zerdechene of Millan in Washington, D.C., during a visit to see President Harding.

It's believed that Stanley Clifford Weyman started tricking people in order to get their money by pretending to be people that he wasn't at an early age. We're not talking about a criminal who simply uses an alias. As an imposter and con artist, he played the part of naval officers, a doctor, a lawyer, a Serbian diplomat, an ambassador, and a reporter at the United Nations.  Believe it or not, he even pulled off, making people think that he was the United States Secretary of State in the Hoover administration. But frankly, those are just some of the scams that we know of.

It's said that Weyman's first hoax was as a United States Consulate representative to Morocco in 1910. After that, he then impersonated a military attaché from Serbia and a U.S. Navy Lieutenant at the same time. He actually used the identity of the U.S. Navy Lieutenant as a reference for the military attaché from Serbia and vice-versa. 

He didn't get away with it and was caught. But really, that didn't stop him from living it up at the finest restaurants in New York City before he was eventually arrested and sent to prison for a few years for fraud. 

After being released from prison in 1915, he took on the role of Lieutenant Commander Ethan Allen Weinberg, Consul General for Romania. He had a U.S. Navy uniform made to fit. He bought medals at pawn shops. He was an imposture of the highest caliber, and he was taken seriously even though he was a fake. 

How serious was he taken as Lieutenant Commander Ethan Allen Weinberg, Consul General for Romania? He inspected the USS Wyoming with no questions asked. The USS Wyoming was a battleship that was only commissioned in 1912 and anchored on the Hudson River for repairs in 1915.  

Weyman was shown around by the ship's Captain. As he was being shown around, he would actually stop periodically to question crew members. He was even heard reprimanding a sailor for a uniform infraction. As usual with such con-artists, no one questioned his identity or bothered checking his credentials. Imagine that. No one on that ship bothered to ask questions. He simply took it upon himself to show up and do what he did, and the crew let it happen.

Following his inspection of the USS Wyoming, Weyman celebrated his hoax by throwing a lavish dinner for all of the officers of the USS Wyoming. That party was held at the very expensive Hotel Astor in New York City. As for the bill, Weyman charged it to the Romanian Consulate in Washington, D.C. 

One story says the Romanian Consulate heard about what was going on and complained to the State Department. Then the Bureau of Investigation (BOI) stepped in to investigate. The Bureau of Investigation was established in 1908. Its name was changed to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 1935. The other story goes that two Bureau of Investigation agents happened to be in the hotel and recognized Weyman. 

It's said that Weyman was the center of attention until two Bureau of Investigation agents crashed the party. He was immediately arrested. Legend says Weyman complained that they should have waited until after dessert to make their arrest.

When reporters informed the Captain of the USS Wyoming of the fraud, the Captain responded. "Well, all I can say is the little guy put on one hell of a tour of inspection." 

That scam is what Stanley Clifford Weyman became best known for. And really, many at the time who read about it in the newspapers were surprised to find out that he only received a year in jail for pulling it off. 

He wasn't even out of jail for six months when in 1917, he impersonated a British Army Air Corps officer calling himself Lieutenant Royal St. Cyr. In this case, he was arrested when he was on an inspection tour of the Brooklyn Armory after someone called the police. For that, he was given three years in prison. 

He was released from prison in 1920 and soon afterward forged credentials to become a doctor in Lima, Peru. He was arrested there and deported back to the United States. By 1921, he was broke and in need of another scam to make him money. He saw his mark in the form of Princess Fatima of Afghanistan.

It's said that Princess Fatima of Afghanistan had arrived in the United States with two goals. One was to meet President Warren G. Harding, and the other was to sell a 45-carat diamond that she had brought with her. She wanted the money from the sale of that diamond to go toward sending her sons to Eton and Oxford Universities. 

As for her selling that diamond? The sale of that enormous diamond took place while Princess Fatima stayed at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. It was there that she negotiated the sale with some of the biggest names in the diamond business at the time. 

As for meeting President Harding? That didn't happen because of political roadblocks. Actually, Harding's State Department held off from establishing any sort of diplomatic relations with Afghanistan because Great Britain had not yet signed a permanent treaty with the newly independent nation of Afghanistan. So to appease Great Britain, the Harding administration ignored Princess Fatima's desire to meet President Harding.

Okay, this is where the little imposter comes in. Weyman visited Princess Fatima at her hotel suite under the guise of being a State Department Naval Liaison Officer. Even though there was no such thing as a State Department Naval Liaison Officer, it was a nonexistent position. He pretended to be just that.

Once he met her, he started his act by first apologizing to her for the oversight made by the State Department. He then promised to arrange a meeting between her and President Harding. She gave him $10,000 to book passage on the Congressional Limited, the premier expressway from New York to Washington, D.C. The money was also to secure a hotel suite at the Willard Hotel in D.C. 

So now, according to what some say, his getting aboard and inspecting the USS Wyoming was his greatest fete. But for me, I say his pulling off what he did next should be seen as being absolutely unbelievable. 

So, Weyman managed to con the Princess into giving him $10,000 for "presents" as bribes to people in the State Department. He then uses part of that money to reserve a private rail car to Washington, D.C., and get several opulent rooms in the Willard Hotel for the Princess and her entire entourage. 

He visited the State Department. And once there, he insinuated knowing several important political figures. From that, as incredible as it might sound, the con artist managed to get a meeting for the Princess with Secretary of State Charles Evan Hughes. And later, with President Warren G. Harding himself. 

On July 26, 1921, President Warren G. Harding received Princess Fatima of Afghanistan. She was escorted by imposter Stanley Clifford Weyman. It's true. Acting as a liaison between the Princess and the White House, he led Princess Fatima and her entourage, including her three sons, to the White House. He performed the introductions between the President and Princess Fatima and then positioned himself in the group photographs taken on the White House lawn. 

As remarkable as it sounds, it was only after photographs of the event appeared in the newspapers that someone recognized Weyman and called the police. Weyman was sentenced to two years in jail for impersonating a U.S. Naval officer.

When Weyman got out of prison, he was met with an unexpected offer by a newspaper. The New York Evening Graphic is today considered a tabloid. It published its first issue in September 1924. The New York Evening Graphic hired Weyman to get an interview with the visiting Queen Marie of Romania. Supposedly, Weyman passed himself off as the Secretary of State to meet with the Romanian Queen and got an interview for that newspaper. The New York Evening Graphic is said to have paid him well for that interview.

In 1926,  Weyman passed himself off as a doctor, a faith-healer, for Pola Negri, a world-famous Polish stage, film actress, and singer. She was the lover of silent film star Rudolph Valentino. Weyman is said to have shown up at Valentino's funeral with Pola Negri as her personal physician. As strange as it sounds, the imposture issued periodic press releases on her condition before established a faith-healing clinic in Valentino's house. 

During World War II, Weyman was over 50 years of age when he was sentenced to seven years in prison for advising draft dodgers on how to feign various medical conditions to avoid serving. While some say he was an anti-American who sided with the Axis during World War II, that could certainly be the reason that he helped draft dodgers avoid the draft. For whatever reason, he got seven years for doing it and wasn't released until 1948.

After being released in 1948, Weyman forged credentials so that he would appear as a journalist to get into the United Nations in Lake Success, New York. He was exposed when a delegation wanted him as their press officer with full diplomatic accreditation. 

While I have talked about what we know Weyman got caught doing, of the people that he pretended to be, he got away with it only because he was discovered. This brings us to the fact is we may never know the full extent of what Weyman got away with. We'll never know how many times he impersonated various government officials, people in the military, and business people of wealth and status while running a con game to swindle others. 

But that's not all of the mystery dealing with this con artist. In fact, while some say he was born Stanley Jacob Weinberg in Brooklyn, New York, on November 25, 1890, I read where that in itself may be false. Some say his real name was Stanley Clifford Weyman, and he was born in Brooklyn in 1891. 

For those who don't think he was always scamming others, keep in mind that Weyman was caught in 1954 for trying to get a home improvement loan of $5,000 for a house that did not exist. That was his mentality. He was always the scam artist. 

Of course, as his several arrests and many years behind bars demonstrate, he didn't fool everyone. In fact, he once failed to convince a judge that he was insane. The judge didn't buy his sob story about not knowing what he was doing when trying to defraud people. The judge simply didn't believe Weyman's con game and sent him to prison for five years. 

He got out of prison in 1959 and met his end on August 27, 1960. Weyman, the con artist who was once mentioned in a 1951 Life Magazine story, a story that called him the "great imposture," was shot dead during a robbery. He was either 68 or 69 years old and working at a hotel in New York City as a porter when he died.

Tom Correa



1 comment:

  1. A little change of pace. I enjoyed this article very much! Thanks, Tom, from far north California.

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