ESPNSoccernet has put together a list of the worst English Premier League transfers over the last 28 years
It comes as no surprise that Ali Dia, football’s most famous fraudster, is top of the list.
50. Marcelino, DF, Newcastle
Signed from Real Mallorca (Spain) for £6 million, 1999
Having developed a reputation as a “bottler,” he spent four years with the club but played just 17 matches, including zero across his final two years in the Premier League.
49. Dennis Wise, MF, Leicester City
Signed from Chelsea for £3.2 million, 2001
Signed as a 35-year-old to replace Neil Lennon in midfield, Wise immediately presided over Leicester’s relegation from the Premier League. He then showed up to training camp the next summer in Finland and punched teammate Callum Davidson in a card game spat, breaking the Scottish player’s cheekbone. The punch cost Wise the £3m remaining on his Leicester deal and is likely the best thing he ever did for the club, which soon entered administration.
48. Park Chu-Young, FW, Arsenal
Signed from Monaco (France) for £5.9 million, 2011
The South Korea international was one of several signings Arsene Wenger seemed to make in a panic at the end of the 2011 summer transfer window, just days after his club had been ripped to shreds in an 8-2 defeat at Old Trafford.
47. Milton Nunez, FW, Sunderland
Signed from PAOK Salonika (Greece) for £2.4 million, 2000
Also known as Tyson Nunez, the Honduran made just one substitute appearance during his time on Wearside, which is fitting for a player whom Sunderland signed by accident. Sunderland manager Peter Reid was reportedly attempting to sign 6-foot-0 future MetroStars striker Adolfo Valencia to his team, but he mistakenly ended up with 5-foot-4 Nunez instead.
46. Yannick Bolasie, FW, Everton
Signed from Crystal Palace for £26 million, 2016
While Everton’s recruitment in the Farhad Moshiri era has been inconsistent at best, few would have argued with the signing of the 27-year-old Bolasie from Crystal Palace when it happened. Sadly, the winger tore his ACL months after arriving and hasn’t been the same player since.
45. Angel Di Maria, FW, Manchester United
Signed from Real Madrid (Spain) for £67.5 million, 2014
One of the most significant examples of United’s habit of getting the least out of world-class players, Di Maria got off to an impressive-enough start at Old Trafford after being signed for a British transfer record. The Argentine was named club Player of the Month in October but, after missing time with a hamstring injury, never seemed to regain his old form.
44. Afonso Alves, FW, Middlesbrough
Signed from Heerenveen (Netherlands) for £15.3 million, 2008
Sometimes, you mine the Eredivisie for its top scorer and come away with Ruud van Nistelrooy. Other times, you end up with Alves, who had scored 44 goals in 39 matches for Heerenveen before joining Middlesbrough in the winter transfer window. He was actually decent in his first half-season with the club, scoring six goals in 651 minutes, but the subsequent year was a disaster.
In 2008/09, Alves scored just four times in 31 appearances for a Boro team that netted just 28 goals all season, the fewest of any Premier League club. Gareth Southgate’s team unsurprisingly went down, with Alves taking much of the blame before leaving for Al-Sadd.
43. Per Kroldrup, DF, Everton
Signed from Udinese for £6.1 million, 2005
Few players have had briefer Premier League careers than the Denmark international, who joined high-flying Everton in summer 2005 and immediately suffered a groin injury. When he recovered, manager David Moyes inserted him into the line up for a Boxing Day fixture against Aston Villa, which Everton lost 4-0.
After one January appearance as a sub in the FA Cup, Everton cut their losses and sold Kroldrup to Fiorentina for £3.6m.
42. Ben Gibson, CB, Burnley
Signed from Middlesbrough for £15.2 million, 2018
When Sean Dyche shelled out a club-record £15m to sign Gibson, Burnley thought they were signing an emerging central defender on the fringes of the England team. Over nearly two full seasons, though, Gibson has made a total of one Premier League appearance, scoring in a 5-1 defeat at the hands of Everton. He was last seen training with Middlesbrough and has likely completed his Clarets career.
41. Oumar Niasse, FW, Everton
Signed from Lokomotiv Moscow (Russia) for £16.1 million, 2016
Another recent Everton flop, Niasse has had a tenure with the club that has been downright bizarre. Signed by Roberto Martinez during the winter transfer window, Niasse played only 131 minutes over five matches before being told he had no future with the club by new boss Ronald Koeman.
40. Corrado Grabbi, FW, Blackburn
Signed from Ternana (Italy) for £10.2 million, 2001
With the days of Alan Shearer and Chris Sutton gone, you can understand why the recently promoted Rovers made their move to sign the 25-year-old Grabbi, who had finished second in Serie B after scoring 20 goals for lowly Ternana the prior season.
Graeme Souness was hoping to come away with a budding star, but Grabbi failed miserably in England and scored just once in his debut season, losing his place to Andy Cole. Grabbi finished his run in England with two Premier League goals in 950 minutes across three seasons before returning to his home country.
39. Fernando Torres, FW, Chelsea
Signed from Liverpool for £52.7 million, 2011
Most of the players on this list have not been up to the standards of the Premier League, but Torres is a different sort of problem. While he was one of the best strikers on the planet during his time at Atletico Madrid and Liverpool, he was surprisingly ordinary after signing for Chelsea.
Torres scored 65 league goals in 7,856 minutes for Liverpool, or about once every 120.8 minutes; after signing for Chelsea, he netted a mere 20 league goals in 6,824 minutes, which was closer to once every 341 minutes.
38. Andy Carroll, FW, Liverpool
Signed from Newcastle United for £36.9 million, 2011
The player signed to replace Torres didn’t turn out too well, either. There was understandable shock when Liverpool broke their club record for the second time in a matter of hours, but while the £22.8m move for Ajax’s Luis Suarez turned out to be a work of genius, Carroll’s signing proved to be a misstep.
37. Juan Sebastian Veron, MF, Manchester United
Signed from Lazio (Italy) for £38.3 million, 2001
In hindsight, it does seem a little curious that Sir Alex Ferguson attempted to break up that famous midfield of Ryan Giggs, Roy Keane, Paul Scholes and David Beckham by making Veron the most expensive transfer in English history at the time. Veron was a more complete player than any of the four, but as Gary Neville said with the benefit of hindsight, he wasn’t a like-for-like replacement for either of United’s central midfielders.
36. Andrea Silenzi, FW, Nottingham Forest
Signed from Torino (Italy) for an unknown fee, 1995
One of the top scorers in Serie A in 1994 and a one-time Italy international, Silenzi was unfairly positioned as the replacement for Stan Collymore, who had just been sold to Liverpool. Ostracized as the first Italian in Premier League history, Silenzi failed to score in 12 appearances, only three of which were starts. Forest then sent Silenzi back to Italy on a loan from which he never returned.
35. Didier Ndong, MF, Sunderland
Signed from Lorient (France) for £18 million, 2016
34. Papy Djilobodji, DF, Sunderland
Signed from Chelsea for £8.6 million, 2016
We’ll link these two players because they both went through a similar saga. Sunderland signed Ndong and Djilobodji in summer 2016. Neither impressed as Sunderland finished with just 24 points and were relegated. Ndong was a much better player than Djilobodji, but both of their Stadium of Light careers ended the same way. They each went on loan during Sunderland’s infamous follow-up season, when they were relegated for a second consecutive campaign. Both were released after failing to report for training over the summer, a tactic the club likely preferred to get their respective wages off the books.
33. Massimo Taibi, GK, Manchester United
Signed from Venezia (Italy) on a free transfer, 1999
Other sources have suggested Taibi cost £4.5m, but at any price, his brief run as United goalkeeper was a disaster. Ferguson signed Taibi to compete with Mark Bosnich and Raymond van der Gouw as the Scot tried to replace Peter Schmeichel. The Italian started only four matches for United, allowing 11 goals in the process, most notably that famous gaffe against Southampton’s Matt Le Tissier.
32. Francis Jeffers, FW, Arsenal
Signed from Everton for £13.8 million, 2001
Arguably the first significant transfer misfire of the Wenger era, the 20-year-old Jeffers was famously signed to serve as the “fox in the box” for an Arsenal team that had only the likes of Thierry Henry and Dennis Bergkamp to rely upon for scoring.
Jeffers had some injury issues even before signing for the Gunners, but the reality is that he just wasn’t a great player. He scored six Premier League goals in three consecutive seasons for Everton as a teenager, then never topped that mark in any season at any level afterward. He scored just four goals in 548 minutes for Arsenal before beginning the itinerant phase of his career.
31. Kostas Mitroglou, FW, Fulham
Signed from Olympiakos (Greece) for £13.7 million, 2014
With Fulham attempting to avoid relegation, the addition of Mitroglou seemed like a coup. The Greece international had scored 30 goals in his prior 36 appearances for Olympiakos, which led the Cottagers to shell out a club-record fee to sign him in January.
But if you don’t remember Mitroglou’s career at Craven Cottage, well, you aren’t alone. Fulham sacked Rene Meulensteen and replaced him with Felix Magath, whose hyper-emphasis on fitness led the German to omit Mitroglou from the team. The striker played just 153 scoreless minutes for relegated Fulham and never appeared for the club again. He went back to Olympiakos on loan and then to Benfica before being sold to the Portuguese club for £6.3m in 2016.
30. Marco Boogers, FW, West Ham
Signed from Sparta (Holland) for £653,000, 1995
Things started bad and didn’t get much better for Boogers, who was sent off in his second appearance for the Hammers after an attempt to saw off Gary Neville’s leg at the knee. Boogers would make just two more appearances for West Ham and finished his Premier League career with 100 total minutes on the pitch.
29. Nikola Zigic, FW, Birmingham City
Signed from Valencia (Spain) for £6.3 million, 2010
Six-foot-7 Zigic scored the opener in Birmingham’s 2-1 Carling Cup final win over Arsenal, but the rest of his Birmingham tenure was less notable. He scored five goals in his first season as the club were relegated, and while he managed 28 goals over three years in the Championship, Birmingham simply couldn’t get rid of the Serbia international.
28. Michael Owen, FW, Newcastle United
Signed from Real Madrid (Spain) for £22.5 million, 2005
You can’t fault Newcastle for trying. With Alan Shearer entering his final year at the club, they tried to sign the best possible replacement for their club legend by bringing Owen back to England. Injuries had blunted his impact during a lone season in Madrid, but the pacey English star was still only 25 and had scored 70 goals across his final four seasons with Liverpool.
Everything went wrong for Owen during his first two seasons with the club, when he suffered thigh and foot injuries before tearing his ACL in the opening moments of England’s 2006 World Cup game against Sweden. Owen played just 14 games over those first two years on Tyneside and, while the next two were better, he still managed only 19 league goals over 4,073 minutes and a total of 26 over his four years in black and white.
27. Owen Hargreaves, MF, Manchester United
Signed from Bayern Munich (Germany) for £22.5 million, 2007
While Hargreaves had battled injury issues before making his move to England in summer 2007, nobody could have anticipated just how badly the England international would fare in his struggle to stay healthy. Hargreaves won the double in his debut season for United, but his career was basically over at 27.
26. Seth Johnson, MF, Leeds United
Signed from Derby County for £10.4 million, 2001
Another English midfielder whose career was cut short in his 20s by injury, Johnson is most famous for the perhaps-apocryphal story surrounding his signing with Leeds. As it goes, Johnson arrived for his negotiations with Leeds chairman Peter Ridsdale hoping to come away with £13,000-per-week.
Ridsdale’s initial offer was £30,000-per-week, and when Johnson gasped, Ridsdale misconstrued the sentiment and upped his offer to £37,000-per-week. It became the perfect encapsulation of how Leeds’ spending spree at the turn of the century went disastrously wrong.
Johnson struggled to stay healthy, and once the club entered administration and were relegated to the Championship, they were stuck in an impossible situation. He had made 59 appearances for the club, but with the 60th set to trigger a £250,000 payment to Derby that Leeds couldn’t afford, Johnson sat on the bench for the remainder of the season. He would return to Derby on a free transfer, in part because he was impressed with the club’s training facilities. They had been funded by Johnson’s sale to Leeds.
25. Sergey Rebrov, FW, Tottenham
Signed from Dynamo Kyiv (Ukraine) for £16.2 million, 2000
Rebrov was part of a famous strike partnership with Andrey Shevchenko at Kyiv. While Shevchenko starred at Milan before disappointing at Chelsea, Rebrov went directly into the anonymous English phase of his career.
Spurs were hoping to see the striker who scored 10 times in the Champions League during his final season with Kyiv, but Rebrov managed just 10 Premier League goals over 59 appearances, including one in 30 during his second season. Spurs then loaned him to Fenerbahce for the remainder of his contract.
24. Roberto, GK, West Ham
Signed from Espanyol (Spain) on a free transfer, 2019
The only player signed in the present season on this list, Roberto’s career with the Hammers was short but disastrous. Taking over for injured Lukasz Fabianski, calamitous performances saw Roberto allow 14 goals (including an own goal) across his seven starts. West Ham claimed just one point from those matches, and Roberto’s struggles led the club to sack manager Manuel Pellegrini and director of football Mario Husillos.
23. Giannelli Imbula, MF, Stoke City
Signed from Porto (Portugal) for £21.8 million, 2016
Imbula became the symbol of Stoke’s rapid decline and departure from the Premier League, as the midfielder made just 26 appearances over his two years with the club. He was dropped to the U-23 team and loaned out as Stoke were relegated.
22. Saido Berahino, FW, Stoke City
Signed from West Bromwich Albion for £12.5 million, 2017
In 28 matches and 1,214 minutes for Stoke in the Premier League, he failed to score even once. After scoring three goals in the second tier the next season, the club terminated Berahino’s contract after he was arrested on charges of driving drunk.
21. Eliaquim Mangala, DF, Manchester City
Signed from Porto (Portugal) for £40.5 million, 2014
Mangala looked to be a rising superstar when City spent more than £40m to buy him from Porto, but Mangala was inconsistent under Manuel Pellegrini and frozen out under Pep Guardiola.
20. Jack Rodwell, MF, Sunderland
Signed from Manchester City for £11.3 million, 2014
It’s unclear whether the one-time England international simply stalled after his rise at Everton or really wasn’t all that good in the first place. Sunderland signed Rodwell after a two-year spell at Man City and gave him a contract worth £70,000-per-week, crucially leaving out a clause that would have reduced his salary if the Black Cats were relegated to the Championship.
19. Agustin Delgado, FW, Southampton
Signed from Necaxa (Mexico) for £5.2 million, 2002
It should be telling that Southampton were more surprised when Delgado showed up in 2003 than they would have been if he had stayed home. Then one of the club’s biggest signings, Delgado got on Gordon Strachan’s bad side after seemingly prioritizing trips back to Ecuador for his national team over playing for the Saints.
He played just 65 minutes and trained five times in his first season after joining Southampton in 2002, only to then play all three matches for Ecuador in the World Cup. Delgado made just two starts and played a mere 303 minutes over his three years in England, scoring once. His time ended with Southampton threatening to block him from signing with another club until his contract expired, seemingly out of frustrated spite.
18. Kevin Davies, FW, Blackburn Rovers
Signed from Southampton for £10.1 million, 1998
Davies had a long, productive career and played more than 440 games in the Premier League, but very few of them came with Blackburn. Southampton paid just over £1m to sign Davies in 1997, but after a nine-goal campaign, Brian Kidd paid more than 10 times that amount to bring the 21-year-old to Blackburn, and then Davies scored one lone goal in his 21 appearances with the club. Blackburn were relegated, Kidd was fired and Davies was sent back to the Saints after the season in exchange for Egil Ostenstad.
17. Gaston Ramirez, AM, Southampton
Signed from Bologna (Italy) for £13.7 million, 2012
The Uruguayan started just three matches and played a total of 578 minutes over his final three seasons on the south coast, contributing one goal and one assist over that timeframe.
16. Alberto Aquilani, MF, Liverpool
Signed from Roma (Italy) for £18 million, 2009
Brought in as a replacement by Rafa Benitez for departing club legend Xabi Alonso, Aquilani failed to live up to his predecessor’s established level of play. The Italian started just nine times in his lone season with Liverpool, and while Aquilani contributed five assists in 817 minutes.
15. Steve Marlet, FW, Fulham
Signed from Lyon (France) for £15.8 million, 2001
There are unquestionably worse players on this list, but I’m not sure any other Premier League signing led their chairman to take the manager who made the signing to court. Fulham owner Mohamed Al Fayed refused to pay sacked Jean Tigana part of his salary and accused the Frenchman of deliberately overpaying for Marlet to try to pocket part of the fee.
The move didn’t work, but neither did Marlet, who scored 11 goals in 49 starts over his two seasons in West London. Marlet later described his time with the club as “hell”.
14. Roger Johnson, CB, Wolves
Signed from Birmingham City for £7.2 million, 2011
When Wolves signed Johnson from relegated Birmingham, they were hoping to add a leader to their backline. The only place he led them was down the same path. With Johnson taking over as club captain, Wolves were immediately relegated.
13. David Bentley, MF, Tottenham Hotspur
Signed from Blackburn for £19.8 million, 2008
Spurs had every reason to be excited when they signed Bentley, an Arsenal prospect who left in search of first-team football before excelling at Blackburn. The winger arrived at Spurs as a 24-year-old who was breaking into the England team and left totally uninterested in football as a calling.
12. Bebe, MF, Manchester United
Signed from Vitoria Guimaraes (Portugal) for £7.9 million, 2010
If Bebe isn’t the worst signing Sir Alex Ferguson made, he’s certainly the most haphazard. Bebe hadn’t played at a level beyond the Portuguese third division, but on the recommendation of former assistant Carlos Queiroz, Ferguson shelled out £7.9m to sign a player who once suited up for Portugal in the Homeless World Cup.
It was a bold move for a player Ferguson would later admit he had never seen play, with the Scottish legend claiming he had made the move to beat Real Madrid to the punch. He need not have bothered. Bebe suggested he would have preferred to stay at his orphanage, and while he later carved out a professional career in Spain, he wasn’t up to the United standard. He played just 75 Premier League minutes during his time at Old Trafford.
11. Alexis Sanchez, FW, Manchester United
Signed from Arsenal in a swap for Henrikh Mkhitaryan, 2018
United’s worst signing of the Premier League era, though, has to be this transfer that was seen as a coup at the time. Sanchez appeared set to join Manchester City before United’s cross-town rivals balked at the Chilean star’s wage demands. United handed Sanchez a four-and-a-half-year deal reportedly worth £391,000-per-week with £75,000 appearance bonuses and a £1.1m annual bonus in the hopes of the 28-year-old serving as the focal point of their post-Zlatan Ibrahimovic attack.
Instead, Sanchez scored just three Premier League goals in one-and-a-half seasons.
10. Mario Balotelli, FW, Liverpool
Signed from AC Milan (Italy) for £18 million, 2014
Although it’s easy to look back on Liverpool’s first candidate to replace Suarez as a foolish bet, there was some logic behind their attempt. Balotelli was still only 24 and coming off of a 14-goal season in Serie A for Milan. The price was reasonable, and, in Brendan Rodgers, Liverpool felt they had a manager who had spent the past several seasons getting the most out of a mercurial talent in Suarez.
It quickly became clear that they had made a mistake. Rodgers was publicly critical in admitting Balotelli was his last available choice to replace Suarez, and the Italian scored one Premier League goal for Liverpool in 939 minutes before leaving to return to Milan on loan. His failure contributed to Rodgers’ sacking just over a year after nearly leading Liverpool to a Premier League title. New boss Jurgen Klopp had little interest in Balotelli and allowed him to leave the club for Nice on a free transfer.
9. Winston Bogarde, DF, Chelsea
Signed from Barcelona (Spain) on a free transfer, 2000
Thanks to billionaire owner Roman Abramovich, it’s been a long time since Chelsea had any meaningful financial concerns, but we’re still not too far removed from the days when the club were deep in the red and on the verge of a financial crisis.
Bogarde figured as one of the causes of their near-insolvency. He was signed on a free transfer and handed a contract worth £40,000-per-week under the stewardship of Gianluca Vialli, but things began to go wrong just 13 days later, when Vialli was sacked.
Replacement Claudio Ranieri didn’t rate Bogarde, who began a lengthy run in the reserves. According to the man himself, Chelsea refused to loan him unless the other club would pick up the entirety of his wages.
Naturally, nobody wanted to pay a defender short on match fitness and riding the Stamford Bridge bench £40,000-per-week, so Bogarde simply faded into the background. He made just nine Premier League appearances in his first season and then never made another for the club — or any other side — again.
8. Tomas Brolin, MF, Leeds United
Signed from Parma (Italy) for £4.5 million, 1995
While the media at the time seemed to blame Brolin’s failures on his weight and lack of desire, I suspect some of the blame for this fiasco should fall on Leeds’ shoulders. Brolin had suffered a serious foot injury on international duty for Sweden in 1994 and barely played for Parma before Leeds spent a club-record £4.5m to sign him in summer 1995.
Brolin actually wasn’t all that bad in his brief time playing with the club, scoring four goals in 18 Premier League appearances, including a brace in a 2-0 win over West Ham. With Leeds manager Howard Wilkinson choosing to play Brolin out of position, the Swede decided to respond with a deliberately awful performance in a 5-0 loss to Liverpool the next week. Brolin refused to return to Leeds the next season, went to Zurich to play on a minimum salary to prove his point about money not mattering, and then briefly went back to Parma on a loan.
With the striker alternately practicing with the reserves or skipping out on training altogether, Leeds eventually banned him from their stadium during matchdays before releasing him altogether. After a brief spell with Crystal Palace, Brolin retired from the game at 28.
7. Andriy Shevchenko, FW, Chelsea
Signed from AC Milan (Italy) for £39.5 million, 2006
Thought of as Roman Abramovich’s “white whale” for years, the Russian finally got his man and convinced Milan to sell Shevchenko to Chelsea for a British record fee. The move for the Ukrainian seemed likely to precede a move away for Didier Drogba, with Jose Mourinho expected to use Shevchenko as his preferred option up front. The problem was that the new man was 29 and, while he had been scoring for fun at Milan, he seemed to age overnight after his move to Stamford Bridge.
Injuries, inconsistency and the resurgent form of Drogba limited Shevchenko to just nine Premier League goals in 48 appearances. Mourinho stuck with Drogba and used Shevchenko out of position, leading Abramovich to eventually sack the Portuguese coach in 2007. Shevchenko went on loan to Milan after his second season and then moved back to Dynamo Kiev on a permanent transfer.
6. Dani Osvaldo, FW, Southampton
Signed from Roma (Italy) for £13.6 million, 2013
While he scored three goals in 855 Premier League minutes during the fall, Osvaldo’s Saints career came to a close shortly after he head-butted defender Jose Fonte during training. Osvaldo never played for the club again, as he was loaned to Juventus, Inter, and Boca Juniors before being released.
5. Adrian Mutu, FW, Chelsea
Signed from Parma (Italy) for £17.1 million, 2003
One of the first signings of the Roman Abramovich era at Stamford Bridge, Mutu was expected to form an attacking partnership with fellow Serie A recruit Hernan Crespo. Mutu had a solid debut season at Chelsea, contributing six goals and eight assists in the 2003/04 campaign, but made just two appearances under Jose Mourinho before being released. The cause? A failed drugs test, with Mutu testing positive for cocaine usage.
4. Bosko Balaban, FW, Aston Villa
Signed from Dinamo Zagreb (Croatia) for £7 million, 2001
While £7m does not seem like an extravagant sum in the context of today’s transfer values, consider that this was the 23rd-largest transfer in the summer of 2001 for a Premier League club. By that measure, it’s roughly equivalent to Leicester paying £30.1m for Ayoze Perez last year. This was the sixth-largest fee Villa had ever paid for a player at the time, according to Transfermarkt’s records. And, according to reports in 2002, most of the transfer fee ended up going directly to Balaban himself.
3. Ricky Alvarez, MF, Sunderland
Signed from Inter Milan (Italy) for £9.5 million, 2015
Alvarez played just 13 games after suffering an injury to his right knee, which had undergone microfracture surgery years earlier.
2. Danny Drinkwater, MF, Chelsea
Signed from Leicester City for £34.1 million, 2017
Drinkwater made 12 Premier League appearances in his debut season with Chelsea, but after Antonio Conte left, the midfielder has been floating out of relevance. There was one appearance under Maurizio Sarri in the Community Shield, and he has not appeared in a Chelsea kit since. Frank Lampard showed little interest in giving him an opportunity either, after arriving as his third manager in three seasons.
With Drinkwater reportedly on £100,000-per-week, it’s difficult to see how Chelsea will find a way out of their most disastrous signing.
1. Ali Dia, FW, Southampton
Signed on a free transfer, 1996
From Southampton’s perspective, this is the worst transfer in Premier League history.
There will always be more players who command disproportionate transfer fees or who struggle to stay healthy after making an expensive move. In the Premier League, there will never, ever be another Ali Dia.
RELATED STORY: ALI DIA: Football’s most famous fraudster