5 Astonishing Stories of Impersonation: From Transit Heists to High School Pranks

Impersonators often find themselves in the headlines for their audacious and sometimes unbelievable acts of deception. Whether for fame, mischief, or more sinister motives, these individuals have managed to dupe people in ways that seem straight out of a movie plot. Here are five astonishing tales of impersonators who took their act to extreme levels.

Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe Impersonators on Hollywood Blvd., May 27, 2009 in Hollywood, CA
Elvis Presley and Marilyn Monroe Impersonators on Hollywood Blvd.
Photo by depositphotos.com

1. The Transit Worker Who Wasn’t: Darius McCollum’s story is one of dedication to a role he was never assigned. Arrested 32 times for impersonating a transit worker, McCollum commandeered countless buses and subway trains over 30 years, meticulously staying on route and schedule, all without official employment. His dedication even extended to attending union meetings, despite not being a member.

2. Howie Mandel’s Expensive Prank: Long before he became a famous comedian and TV host, Howie Mandel was expelled from high school for a daring impersonation. He managed to convincingly mimic a member of his school board, going as far as to sign a construction contract for an addition to his school, an act that quickly led to his expulsion.

3. Steven Jay Russell’s Escapades: The story of Steven Jay Russell reads like a Hollywood script. He once impersonated a prison guard to walk out of prison freely. Recaptured, he then posed as a judge to lower and pay his bail, escaped another capture by pretending to be a doctor, and even faked his death. These repeated escapades eventually earned him a 144-year sentence.

4. Commanding a Disaster Response: In a daring act of deception, a man arrived at the I-40 bridge collapse site and took command of the federal disaster response by impersonating a U.S. Army Captain. He successfully led the response for two days before vanishing.

5. The French Teenager in Texas: A 23-year-old French con artist took impersonation to a deeply personal level by assuming the identity of a missing 16-year-old Texas boy. He lived with the boy’s family for months, despite keeping his French accent and having a different eye color from the missing teen, highlighting the extent to which people can be deceived under emotional stress.

From commandeering public transportation to escaping prisons and living under a stolen identity, these five stories show just how far impersonators can go in their deceptive endeavors.

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