Over the years, Bourdin had insinuated himself into youth shelters, orphanages, foster homes, junior high schools, and children’s hospitals…The U.S. State Department warned that he was an "exceedingly clever" man who posed as a desperate child in order to "win sympathy," and a French prosecutor called him "an incredible illusionist whose perversity is matched only by his intelligence." Bourdin himself has said, "I am a manipulator… My job is to manipulate."
…Though he emphasized his cunning, he acknowledged what any con man knows but rarely admits: it is not that hard to fool people. People have basic expectations of others’ behavior and are rarely on guard for someone to subvert them. By playing on some primal needvanity, greed, lonelinessmen like Bourdin make their mark further suspend disbelief. As a result, most cons are filled with logical inconsistencies, even absurdities, which seem humiliatingly obvious after the fact. Bourdin, who generally tapped into a mark’s sense of goodness rather than into some darker urge, says, "Nobody expects a seemingly vulnerable child to be lying."
Read the complete article The Chameleon: The many lives of Frederic Bourdin, at The NewYorker
This article is part of the 2010 book by David Grann, The Devil and Sherlock Holmes (go to Amazon>>)
"Birdsong spoke with a child-like voice. He claimed he couldn’t read or write. He wore a diaper and had to be bathed, according to a summary of the investigation."
A more recent version of a similar scam, from CantonRep>>