The Best True Crime to Stream: Scams, Schemes and Costly Lies

There are so many true crime offerings dedicated to scams, frauds and con artists that it can be overwhelming. Many of these stories are astonishing and worthy of attention, whether the deceptions are financial, medical, romantic or otherwise. Often most surprising is how relatively painless it seems to lay such traps, and how many people, regardless of personal circumstances, take the bait.

Here are four picks across television, film and podcast that stand out, all of which underscore what can unfold when a hunger for money, power or prestige is put above all else.

Documentary Film

“Operation Varsity Blues: The College Admissions Scandal”

With college acceptance season upon us, it seems appropriate to revisit one of the most outrageous education scandals in recent years: a $25 million bribery scheme that prompted a federal investigation called Operation Varsity Blues. The mastermind behind it was William Singer, a basketball coach turned college admissions counselor who ran a criminal enterprise that opened a fraudulent path for wealthy people to have their children accepted by elite universities under the guise that they had earned entry based on academic and extracurricular excellence. Test scores were doctored, for example, and athletic credentials were fabricated in ludicrous ways.

Dozens of powerful people were accused and arrested, most famously the actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, who both served time in prison.

In this 2021 film, the director Chris Smith puts a fresh spin on re-enactments, long the life blood of true crime television and films, by recreating full scenes and pulling dialogue directly from wiretaps. Matthew Modine (“Stranger Things,” “Oppenheimer”), who plays Singer, and other actors bring it all to life.

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