Journalist Evan Ratliff investigates con artist Gilbert Chikli in ‘Persona: The French Deception’

True Crime July 5, 2022
Listen to ‘Persona: The French Deception’

Gilbert Chikli was one of the greatest career con artists who skillfully coerced powerful people to hand over their fortunes. “Persona: The French Deception” tells Chikli’s story and shares how he evaded law enforcement for years. In this true crime series, host and journalist Evan Ratliff investigates just how Chikli did this and makes listeners wonder what it would feel like to scam someone out of $50 million via phone.

Start “Persona: The French Deception” from episode 1 to hear Chikli’s Robin Hood-like beginnings up through “the golden age of scammers,” as we’ve seen documented in plenty of podcasts.

Chikli made full use of his seductive power and ability to invent imaginary worlds he lured his targets into. In the series, you’ll hear that Chikli could convince his targets to do anything. Starting out as a two-bit scammer, Chikli set his ambitions higher and chased richer targets, devising bold schemes and eventually going after companies as well as some of the wealthiest people in the world.

Episode 1 starts in Paris when a banker was called by her boss, saying a secret agent will soon have updates on a “confidential government operation.” The banker was directed to stay in a bathroom stall, wait for a password, then fork over a bag of cash. At the same time in Israel, a musician was enmeshed in his friend’s underground network, and these events were the very beginning of one of the century’s biggest scams.

In Israel, Chikli was a local celebrity and considered a pioneer who had some run-ins with the law. He was flaunting suitcases of money and new yachts as French authorities were just about to close in.

Chikli’s scam went global and grabbed billions of dollars a year from international corporations, sweeping in co-conspirators, and becoming an elusive legend. By episode 4, “The Tiger Dossier,” listeners learn that French embassies received bizarre phone calls, and the authorities investigated someone impersonating the French Minister of Defense. In more examples shared on the podcast, the calls targeted foreign governments and wealthy French speakers, and the scammer got away with $20 million+. Evan accessed this particular case file years later to reassess what the investigation found.

We recommend this podcast for fans of “Scam Goddess,” “Swindled,” and “Chameleon.”

“Persona: The French Deception” is presented by Wondery and Pineapple Street Studios. Subscribers get early access to episodes. Everyone else can check out new, weekly episodes wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.

Listen to ‘Persona: The French Deception’

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