yet another French swindler

Alexandre Stavisky was a solemn fellow who got up promptly at nine to start swindling, whose table jokes fell flat before his ministerial guests, and who, though forced for business reasons to have mistresses, loved only his wife.

image found here

“He began his humble career in 1906 by failing as a cafe singer. In succession, during the next nine years, he failed at managing a nightclub, illicit gambling dens, a nude review, a tinned soup company, an electric ice box company, a shyster brokerage desk, and drug running. 

image found at nude review

In the 1930s he managed municipal pawnshops in Bayonne but also moved in financial circles. He sold lots of worthless bonds and financed his “hockshop” on the surety of what he called the emeralds of the late Empress of Germany — which later turned out to be glass.

Empress of Emeralds found here

In 1927, Stavisky was put on trial for fraud for the first time. However, the trial was postponed again and again and he was granted bail 19 times. He probably continued his scams during this time. One judge who claimed to hold secret documents was later found decapitated.

image found here

Faced with exposure in December 1933, Stavisky fled. On 8 January 1934, the police found him in a Chamonix chalet agonizing from a gun wound. Officially Stavisky committed suicide but there was a persistent speculation that police killed him.

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Fourteen Parisian newspapers called it suicide and eight did not. The distance the bullet had traveled led Le Canard enchaîné to propose the tongue-in-cheek theory that he had “a long arm”.

The scandal brought in a remarkable range of personalities from politics, high society and the literary-intellectual elite of Paris. Mistinguett was asked why she had been photographed with Stavisky at a nightclub; Georges Simenon reported on the unfolding affair and Stavisky’s ex-bodyguard threatened him with physical violence; Colette, referring to the inability of any of Stavisky’s high-placed friends to remember him, described the dead con artist as “a man with no face”

Colette found here

a character in the best French tradition

Georges Rème was a notorious and popular French swindler.

“Swindle” epad found here

“His fiction-like feats of escape have earned him the nickname “The Human Eel“. In August 1926, he was taken to a Paris court with ten others but was not handcuffed. When the warder’s attention was distracted, Rème, drawing from his pockets some legal documents which he had picked up, calmly walked out. When challenged by the guard, he waved the papers, replying “Detective Inspector” and passed on. Hailing a taxi, he disappeared.

Moray Eel found here

He was recaptured in 1927 and sentenced to ten years in a Lyonnais prison and ten in exile.

“He said to his advocate, “I doubt if I stay in prison at all. The climate of Lyons does not agree with me. I fancy that my sentence of ten years is an idle theory on the part of the bench.”

Liz Lyons found here

His advocate, in defending him (Rème has already been convicted seventeen times for theft) argued in part that his client was “a character in the best French tradition, on account of his elegance, his imagination and wit. In certain circumstances a man such as Rème has to be invented if he doesn’t exist, because in sad periods he is one of those who help to amuse the masses and distract them from the preoccupations of their mind.”

Preoccupied French citizens found here

Of all the criminals of recent years, only the murderer Landru was more popular at distracting the preoccupied masses, a dozen or more of whom (female) he had previously amused to death in his country retreat.

French murderer Landru found here

The hotel servant girl who found the Condé rose diamond Rème had stolen by biting into its hiding place in an apple belonging to one of the hotel’s guests – was promptly sacked for her dishonesty by the management.

Rose diamonds found here