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The Con

The Con

  • Premiered: 
    October 14, 2020
    (Click date to see TV listings for that day)

  • Network: ABC
  • Category: Series
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Type: Live Action
  • Concept: 
  • Subject Matter: Crime
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Plot Synopsis

Narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, THE CON is a documentary series that explores the troubling tales of people taken in by claims and promises that proved too good to be true -- from identity fraud and misleading romance to the high-profile college admission scandal and Fyre Festival. It reveals how the victims were fooled and the cost of their false trust -- emotional and financial. THE CON features interviews with the key people caught up in the cons, including victims and eyewitnesses, and, in some cases, law enforcement and the perpetrators themselves. Each week, THE CON documents a different con and its victims, including the stories of: Paolo Macchiarini, an internationally renowned surgeon, who fabricated parts of his medical research; Johnathan Walton and con artist Marianne Smyth, who claimed to be an Irish heiress whose family was trying to swindle her out of her massive inheritance; Anthony Gignac of Michigan, who created a false identity to deceive people into thinking he was a member of the Saudi royal family; and the story of three women who paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to psychic frauds who preyed on their vulnerability and dependency.

In the series premiere, "The Love Con," Goldberg introduces viewers to Benita Alexander, an award-winning documentary television producer and single mother, and Paolo Macchiarini, an internationally renowned surgeon. Alexander meets Macchiarini while producing a documentary on his groundbreaking surgical techniques using stem cells in synthetic trachea transplants. Despite crossing professional lines, Alexander finds herself wooed by Macchiarini's charm, intellect and good looks, and the pair quickly falls in love. After traveling the world together, the couple gets engaged and, according to Alexander, Macchiarini tells her he wants to take over planning the wedding. It quickly becomes a grand, fairy-tale affair with an impressive guest list, including Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Elton John. He says they'll even be married by the pope. However, weeks before their Italian wedding, Alexander realizes things aren't as perfect as they seem and uses her investigative producer skills to uncover the truth behind Macchiarini and the planned wedding. At around the same time, the Karolinska Institute, where Macchiarini performed some of his transplant surgeries, has been digging into allegations from Macchiarini's colleagues that he fabricated parts of his medical research. Macchiarini eventually loses his position at the institute. His groundbreaking surgeries have been under investigation by Swedish prosecutors, and just last week he was indicted on charges of aggravated assault relating to three of his surgeries. A court date has yet to be set and Macchiarini has not yet entered a plea. He has denied all of the allegations against him. The premiere episode includes interviews with Alexander, her friends, family and former co-workers. After a four-month break, THE CON returned with the first of five new episodes on Wednesday, March 3, 2021 at 10pm ET/PT on ABC. In the mid-season debut, "The Fyre Festival Con," THE CON covers the infamous Fyre Festival, featuring the first televised interview with festival mastermind Billy McFarland since his imprisonment. The first new episode includes more exclusive interviews with former Fyre Festival employees, several festival goers and McFarland's mentor and event producer, Andy King. Entrepreneur Billy McFarland aimed to pull off his biggest idea yet in spring 2017 -- the Fyre Festival. To bring it to life, McFarland secured investors and hype with the help of a costly, viral promotional video full of the world's biggest influencers and models on the beaches of Great Exuma, Bahamas. The Fyre Festival quickly became one of the hottest and priciest tickets of the year. With only six months to plan, McFarland and his team scrambled to make good on his promise of an ultra-luxurious festival experience, complete with an all-star lineup of music performances, lavish cabanas, celebrity chefs and more. Instead, hundreds of guests arrived to what was ultimately an unfinished campsite, far from luxury. The disastrous conditions quickly went viral on social media and led to performers canceling and guests shocked with disappointment. Everyone wanted answers and most importantly a refund, and all eyes were on McFarland. Ultimately, McFarland left behind a trail of unpaid debts and is currently serving six years in prison and was ordered to pay back those he defrauded, totaling $26 million.

THE CON returned for its second season on Thursday, July 28, 2022 at 10pm ET/PT on ABC, with Whoopi Goldberg continuing as the narrator. Each week Goldberg takes viewers inside the shocking tales of deceit and fraud, revealing the con artist's schemes, devastating costs, and hope for justice as told by the key people who lived the life-changing events. Podcaster Laci Mosely joins the series as a featured expert making weekly appearances. This season, THE CON features the stories of Jim Bakker, who prosecutors say has been up to his old tricks conning his faithful followers with a sham COVID cure; the stories of a complex love fraud with victims spanning the country; ill-gotten gains in the film business; a counterfeit ring fueled by extreme couponing and graphic design skills; and the billion-dollar heist of the century that threatened the global financial system. In the season premiere, "The Faithful Investor," Goldberg introduces viewers to Aubrey Lee Price, a once beloved Georgia pastor turned financial advisor. Price, who came to boast over 100 clients in his portfolio and millions of dollars in assets, turned his attention to a floundering small-town bank in need of funding. An opportunity that he thought would be his cash cow ended up being "the nail in his coffin." He had no way to pay back his investors, most of whom were the faithful parishioners who trusted Price with their life savings when things did not go as planned. The father of four boarded a ferry from Key West to Fort Myers, Florida, after sending what amounted to suicide notes to friends and family. He disappeared in June 2012 while his victims were left to pick up the pieces of their lives and ruined retirements, but a routine traffic stop solved the mystery of what happened to Aubrey Lee Price. The episode includes interviews with Price's victims, attorneys and even the preacher himself, who takes a turn at confession.
On Friday, September 9, 2022 at 8pm ET/PT, ABC premiered "The Imposter Doctor Con," the Season 2 finale of THE CON. (The finale was originally scheduled for the previous night -- Thursday, September 8 -- at 10pm, but ABC pre-empted regularly scheduled programming for coverage of the death of Queen Elizabeth.) In 2015, authorities took the baby-faced 17-year-old Malachi Love-Robinson into custody for roaming the halls and patients' rooms of the OB-GYN department at a West Palm Beach, Florida, hospital. The hospital didn't press charges, and they released Love-Robinson with a warning after a mental evaluation. He continued on pursuing his childhood dream of becoming a physician, and a few months later, armed with the West Palm Beach hospital experience, the charismatic smooth-talker opened his own practice with a steadily growing clientele. Authorities arrested him after an undercover operation confirmed that "Dr. Love" had been practicing medicine without a license...once again.


Production & Distribution

  • Produced by ABC News (series premiere)
  • Produced by The Intellectual Property Corporation (IPC) (subsequent episodes; for ABC News)