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Podcast / Swindled

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"Money truly is the root of all evil."

Swindled is a bi-weekly Documentary-style True Crime podcast hosted by "A Concerned Citizen", identity unknown, covering examples of fraud, corruption, and white-collar crime. And boy does he find plenty of examples, even in places you'd least expect. Each episode opens with a prelude in which the Citizen revisits a relatively obscure person or event, which then leads into a thorough examination of a more notorious or impactful case.

Four seasons of the podcast have been released since January 2018, with a fifth scheduled for early 2021.

Not to be confused with this book or its movie adaptation.


The tropes covering the subjects and the show itself are the following, on this page for Swindled:

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  • 0% Approval Rating:
    • By the time Martin Shkreli was sentenced, his antics earned the scorn of his own lawyer, other greedy pharma execs and even Donald Trump.
    • Hunter Moore, the proprietor of the revenge-porn website Is Anyone Up?, positively reveled in this status, calling himself "the most hated man on the Internet" and a "professional life-ruiner."
    • Madalyn Murray O'Hair embraced her role as "the most hated woman in America", taking every opportunity to antagonize religious people throughout her career, to the point where she was forced to repeatedly move because of death threats.
  • Abusive Parents:
    • Ginny Irovando Long told her young son that he was dying of cancer as part of her scheme to rip off GoFundMe donors, which understandably made him deeply depressed and resulted in her being charged with child abuse when caught out.
    • Colton Harris Moore's parents were both alcoholics, with his mother being emotionally abusive and his father being physically abusive. Colton's mother was also so neglectful of her son's welfare that, as a child, he spent certain periods of time living in the woods.
  • Adult Fear:
    • Love Canal. You move into an idyllic neighborhood only to find out it's been built on top of a toxic landfill that is disfiguring or killing your kids, and neither the city nor the company responsible for the contamination are willing to lift a finger to help you.
    • Everything featured in "The Body Snatcher": imagine discovering that the ashes of your deceased loved one were really just burned garbage and that their body was actually unceremoniously dumped in a forest. Alternatively, imagine discovering that your loved one's body had been stripped for parts without your consent thanks to the funeral home you chose taking bribes and that the body in the casket is being held together with PVC pipe instead of bones. And then imagine going in for routine knee surgery and getting implanted with diseased and/or rotting tissue taken from a body and catching all sorts of diseases as a result.
    • The case of Maria Elvira Pinto Exposto. Imagine being tricked by scammers into smuggling drugs into a foreign country, and then being imprisoned in that foreign country for years with the likely prospect of eventually being executed, all because you were looking for love online.
    • Ryan White. Your child contracts AIDS because of a screw-up made by the manufacturer of his hemophilia medication, and everybody you know in town — from the school to the neighbors to random people on the street — assume he is gay and blackball him from the community. And it eventually gets so bad that someone decides to fire a gun into your house.
  • All-Natural Snake Oil: The Gerson therapy, advocated by Jess Ainscough and Belle Gibson, is a veganism-based treatment that can purportedly cure cancer and other degenerative diseases. Jess Ainscough learned too late how useless it really is (even after it failed to work on her cancer-stricken mother) and ended up dying of cancer herself. Belle Gibson didn't have to worry about that outcome because she never had cancer to begin with.
  • Amoral Attorney:
    • James J. West, a.k.a. "Jimmy the Weasel", the Acting U.S. Attorney prosecuting Budd Dwyer, is depicted as running a show trial as a lackey of Governor Dick Thornburgh.
    • Juan Dominguez, the Cuban-born personal injury attorney handling the case of six Nicaraguan banana workers against Dole Food Company, recruits and coaches random people into falsely testifying that they are disgruntled ex-employees of Dole. His antics result in the verdict against Dole being overturned. (Though ACC mentions testimony from a third party suggesting Dominguez was set up by Dole.)
  • An Arm and a Leg:
    • Tania Head's arm was completely severed in a car crash and had to be surgically re-attached. She would later (falsely) claim that the arm was nearly severed during the 9/11 attacks.
    • Several years before the Carroll Canyon mine collapse, Murray Energy's complete lack of safety standards led to a miner having his arm ripped off by a conveyor belt and bleeding to death on the spot.
    • After the Challenger disaster, the severed foot of one of the astronauts washed ashore in Florida and was found by a woman who tried to keep it as a souvenir.
    • The Patreon-exclusive bonus episodes "The Pole Saw" and "The Developer" involve deliberate attacks on limbs, leading to amputations, as part of a Zany Scheme.
  • And I Must Scream: The prelude to "The Space Program" mentions rumors of numerous anonymous Soviet cosmonauts (who allegedly reached space before Yuri Gagarin) who never returned to Earth, and are now travelling through space in their slipshod spacecraft for eternity. However, such claims were never actually proven and the overall evidence points to them as being nothing more than hearsay, with one frequently-cited piece of evidence widely believed to be a hoax.
  • Apocalyptic Log:
    • The Sago miners wrote goodbye letters to their loved ones as they slowly died from carbon monoxide poisoning.
    • Twice in "The Space Program":
      • U.S. scientists in Turkey reportedly overheard radio transmissions of Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov raging at the people who put him in the deathtrap that was Soyuz 1 as the spacecraft was crashing to Earth.
      • In the never-released audio log from inside the cabin of Challenger, Commander Dick Scobee says one word as the shuttle begins to break up: "Uh-oh."
  • Asshole Victim:
    • Brian Wells, who died after robbing a bank while wearing a collar bomb, turned out to have been in on the robbery from the beginning. The only thing he wasn't in on was the bomb being real.
    • Richard Bailey was a remorseless conman...and he was sentenced to life (later thirty years) in prison for a murder he likely never committed.
    • Joe Francis was arrested in Panama Beach, Florida, on trumped up charges and forced into jail during a civil settlement by a judge who was not at all impartial. This doesn't change the fact that Joe was an exploitative, egotistical rapist.
  • Ass Shove: The Gerson therapy in the cancer fraud episode involves coffee enemas. Daily.
  • The Atoner: Alex Malarkey made up the story of his Near-Death Experience to get attention but became increasingly appalled at how other people exploited the story for profit, which convinced him to come forward with the truth.
  • Awesome Mc Coolname: Harley Davidson Ironwing in "The Barefoot Bandit". Even the Citizen is impressed by it.
  • Ax-Crazy: Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong, who was involved in Brian Wells' death-by-collar-bomb, was a very disturbed woman who had previously killed two romantic partners.
  • Baby Sitter From Hell: When people began catching on to her previous schtick of posing as victimized teenagers, Samantha Azzopardi approached wealthy families under false identities and offered her services as an au pair.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Oftentimes in an episode A Concerned Citizen describes something in as though it was real, and then after explaining it, immediately reveals it to be a hoax.
  • Bald of Evil: Robert E. Murray, to the point that an ACLU lawyer included a graphic comparing him to Dr. Evil in an amicus brief.
  • Banana Republic: Guatemala's subjugation by the United Fruit Company (which later became Chiquita) was both the Ur-Example and the Trope Namer, as recounted in "The Octopus".
  • Based on a Great Big Lie:
    • Belle Gibson built a business empire selling quack diets after claiming said diets had cured her of pervasive cancer. There was just one problem: Belle Gibson never had cancer.
    • At age six, Alex Malarkey came back from a Near-Death Experience claiming to have entered Heaven and encountered Jesus and God. The story became the basis for a bestselling book which was popular in conservative evangelical circles. When he turned eighteen, however, Alex admitted that he had made up the story for attention.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Jimmy Sabatino wished for his latest prison sentence to be served in solitary confinement as he believes this is the only way to stop him from scamming. He ended up being sent to ADX Florence, an infamous supermax that houses the most dangerous terrorists and criminals on Earth.
  • Better to Die than Be Killed: Villainous example. The A.H. Robins Company chooses to file for bankruptcy rather than compensate more victims of the Dalkon Shield device.
  • Big Red Devil: The visual motif of the podcast, as seen in the page image.
  • Bittersweet Ending:
    • After a lot of hassle, most of the residents of Love Canal are finally relocated and the incident leads to the passage of the federal Superfund law managing toxic waste sites. But the residents live with the physical effects for decades afterward and new residents move into Love Canal after authorities claim parts of the area are safe, causing illnesses to spike again.
    • Budd Dwyer committed suicide after being convicted of a crime he did not commit, but he timed his death to ensure that his family would be taken care of by the pension and benefits that would have otherwise been voided if he had been formally stripped of his office.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality:
    • There are absolutely no heroes in "The Televangelist." Jim Bakker uses the money and goodwill of common people to afford the excessive lifestyle he shares with Tammy Faye, and is also an accused rapist. Jimmy Swaggart is a holier-than-thou Smug Snake who is quickly exposed as a hypocrite and a sexual deviant. Jerry Falwell, who takes over PTL after the Bakkers resign, commits the least sins, but is clearly taking advantage of the situation for his own benefit.
    • The Concerned Citizen makes no bones about his intense dislike for Girls Gone Wild proprietor Joe Francis, but the people challenging him in court — the Florida authorities who abused their power to persecute him; Steve Wynn, who was later exposed for sexual misconduct; and Ashley Dupre, who was later the central figure in Eliot Spitzer's prostitution scandal — were little better. The Citizen outright states that everyone covered in the Joe Francis episode "sucks."
    • "The Fundraiser" becomes this with the reveal that homeless vet Johnny Bobbitt, Jr., far from being a victim of exploitation by Mark D'Amico and Kate McClure, was actually in on their scheme to defraud users of GoFundMe.
    • Even though Chiquita and Dole are objectively the worse side in "The Octopus", that doesn't change the fact they've gotten away with horrible crimes thanks to the lawbreaking antics of their opponents.
  • Blasé Boast: After noting that the attendance of Anna Delvey's trial shrank dramatically as it focused on endless depositions of bankers describing Delvey's fraudulent transactions in excruciatingly dull detail:
    Concerned Citizen: Just further proof that it takes a true creative genius to present white-collar crime cases in an entertaining way. Don't forget to rate and review.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • Hooker Chemical Company initially claims to have no record of toxic chemicals being dumped at the Love Canal site, despite the company having worked in a clause in a contract they negotiated with the city of Niagara Falls specifically to avoid legal liability over adverse chemical exposure.
    • Dr. Hugh Davis lied through his teeth before the Nelson pill hearings when he claimed he had no commercial interest in intrauterine birth control devices. In fact he sold his patent for what would become the infamous Dalkon Shield IUD to the A.H. Robins Company just days before his testimony, and stood to make a profit from its sales.
    • Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and Christine Beatty denied under oath that they were engaged in a sexual relationship and had used their city-owned phones to exchange personal text messages. Soon after the trial, the Detroit Free Press publicized explicit texts between Kilpatrick and Beatty which revealed the opposite was true.
    • Jered Threatin initially tries to pass off his botched tour and the subsequent exposure of his serial fabrications as a planned exercise in "performance art", only for the media and Internet sleuths to quickly figure out this is a weak attempt at face-saving.
    • Robert. E. Murray emphatically claims that his mining company had a good safety record and no history of major accidents, without mentioning the 200 citations the company received for violating industry regulations before the Carroll Canyon collapse that killed six.
  • Body Horror:
    • Children raised in Love Canal suffered this as a result of exposure to the chemicals from the landfill the neighborhood was built on. They exhibited strange skin conditions, birth defects, cleft palates, extra rows of teeth, and — most alarmingly — chromosomal damage.
    • Users of the Dalkon Shield intrauterine device suffered pelvic inflammatory disease, blood poisoning, and breaches of the uterine walls. It was not uncommon for users to suffer septic abortions or give birth to deformed or brain-damaged infants. One woman, who just so happened to be a patient of the Dalkon Shield's inventor, discovered that her uterus was so enveloped by adhesions and scar tissue that her fallopian tubes had to be completely reconstructed, rendering her permanently infertile.
    • Stella Liebeck's third degree burns from spilled McDonald's coffee were so gruesome that the Citizen declined to post any pictures on social media.
    • Michael Mastromarino's company, Biomedical Tissue Services, provided tissue and bone samples for medical implants with utter disregard for ethics or hygiene. Not only did the samples often come from cadavers harvested without the consent of the deceased or their families, but BTS neglected to screen cadavers for disease. They forged documents listing a different cause of death when they did know a cadaver died due to cancer or infectious disease, harvested corpses much older than the maximum allowed donor age of 65, reused instruments during harvest which increased the risk of cross-contamination, and stored samples and cadavers unrefrigerated for weeks at a time. As a result, unwitting recipients across the world developed numerous conditions such as septic shock, paralysis, syphilis and lethal infections.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: In the prologue to "The Vigilante", the Citizen states that some of Joe Stack's longstanding grievances with the IRS and its tax code were legitimate, while also agreeing with Stack's critics that his actions only succeeded in killing an innocent person and did not help his cause in any way.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: By all accounts, Jered Threatin has a genuine talent as a rock musician, but is too lazy and egotistical to put in the hard work to promote himself — hence his use of hoax companies and overseas click farms to cut corners to success.
  • Broken Pedestal:
    • Paul Powell was remembered with fondness by state and local officials in Illinois — with former-President Harry Truman serving as his pallbearer — until it was revealed that Powell had pocketed thousands of dollars in bribes over the course of his career.
    • After Lieutenant "G.I. Joe" Gliniewicz of the Fox Lake, IL police department was found seemingly murdered, his death was grieved by his family and community, and right-wing commentators and politicians quickly propped him up as a martyr against the Black Lives Matter movement. It then emerged that Gliniewicz had committed a carefully staged suicide after an internal audit threatened to expose his embezzlement of thousands of dollars from the police department's training program.
    • Tania Head's friends in the 9/11 survivor community credited her for being a source of hope by sharing her purported firsthand experience and raising money on their behalf. This understandably changed for the negative when it turned out that Tania completely fabricated her story — of losing her lover in the North Tower, of having her arm nearly severed as the second plane hit the South Tower, of being given a wedding ring by a dying victim to take to his wife — to milk people's sympathy.
    • Similarly to the Tania Head case, Belle Gibson's friends in the cancer survivor community were hit hard by the revelation that Gibson faked having cancer for attention and financial gain.
    • Numerous nuns who worked in Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity came away disillusioned with how Teresa and the organization didn't actually help the poor in Calcutta as they had been led to believe, but there was no audience to listen to their stories because Mother Teresa had done a good job at securing her public image.
  • Broken Record:
  • Bullying the Dragon: Incarcerated fraudster Allen Stanford hogs up the communal phone in jail to talk to his lawyer. When the other inmates complain he glares at them, assuming that this will be enough to make them back off. He is quickly proven wrong.
  • Bungled Suicide: Not played for laughs. Sunil Verma, a victim of the Bhopal gas leak, attempted suicide more than once — first by eating rat poison, then by setting himself on fire, then by running into the jungle hoping to be eaten or starved to death. He finally hanged himself in 2006.
  • Canned Laughter: ACC uses stock laugh tracks to illustrate Tania Head's relationship with her fictitious fiance Danny, likening her story to a sitcom plot.
  • Cassandra Truth:
    • A.H. Robins Company was warned that the Dalkon Shield intrauterine device posed a serious health hazard to users. Union Carbide was warned that substandard practices at its plant in Bhopal would lead to a deadly gas leak. The operators of the Sago and Carroll Canyon coal mines were warned that they were unsafe. All of these warnings were ignored and/or covered up, with disastrous results.
    • Kate McClure's mother and one of her friends are well aware that she and her boyfriend are ripping off GoFundMe and predict via text messages that the scheme will backfire badly on them. It does.
    • Poor Mark Edwards. In the span of a decade, he was called in to investigate incidents of lead poisoning in drinking water (Washington in 2004 and Flint in 2014), and both times was stymied by government bureaucrats too concerned with optics and the bottom line to properly deal with the problems. His warnings have been repeatedly ignored, leading to yet another water crisis (this time in Newark).
    • Engineers for Morton-Thiokol tried to warn NASA about the dangerous defect in the Space Shuttle Challenger 's O-ring seals, but the agency was more interested in the PR coup of sending a schoolteacher into space and refused to postpone the launch. The rest, as they say, is history.
  • Chronic Villainy:
    • Con man Jimmy Sabatino suffers from an impulse control disorder, meaning that he repeatedly goes right back to running scams every time he is released from jail (and sometimes when he is inside jail) over the years. The only way he can think to stop himself is to volunteer to be sent to the ADX Florence supermax prison and serve his current sentence in solitary confinement.
    • Billy McFarland tried to run another scam on his former clients while on bail for the infamous Fyre Festival fiasco. The sheer gall of this has led many to speculate if this trope was at play.
    • Joshua Paul Calhoun, Harley Davidson Ironwing, and Colton Harris Moore were extremely habitual thieves with rap sheets miles long, and who began their criminal careers at a young age.
  • Con Man: The podcast covers its fair share of these, most notably Jimmy Sabatino, Allen Sanford, Lou Pearlman, and Simon Leviev.
    • Zig-zagged with the case of fake 9/11 survivor Tania Head, who raised money for her non-profit under false pretenses but never misappropriated any of it, even donating generous amounts from her family's fortune.
  • Consummate Liar:
    • Tania Head has been lying ever since her teen years, even about the circumstances of the car crash in which her arm was severed. When she decided to make up her own story about being a 9/11 survivor, she researched the attacks, the victims, and the World Trade Center so thoroughly that her deception wasn't exposed for four years after she began her charade.
    • Samantha Azzopardi has spent her early career as a scam artist, going into her twenties, pretending to be victimized teenaged girls. By age 22, when she appeared in Dublin pretending to be an Eastern European human trafficking victim, Azzopardi had already amassed forty aliases around the globe. After being deported back to her native Australia, Azzopardi befriended and gaslit another girl into believing Azzopardi was a kidnapped Swedish princess on the run from assassins.
    • Another Australian girl, Belle Gibson, captured media attention by claiming that she had cured her cancer with vegan diets such as the Gerson protocol. In just two years she scored numerous TV appearances, a book deal, and a prominent spot for her health app on the soon-to-be-launched Apple Watch. It all unraveled when journalists learned that not only had Gibson faked her cancer, but also her charitable contributions, her background, and even her age.
  • Control Freak: Good lord, Jered Threatin. During his European tour, he scolded his hired bandmates for getting breakfast at the hotel's buffet without his permission, and he told them that they needed to stay with him at all times. Since Threatin's a teetotaler who doesn't do nightlife, this severely restricted where his bandmates could go during the tour.
  • Corrupt Bureaucrat:
    • Rita Crundwell, the treasurer of Dixon, Illinois, who embezzled almost $54 million in city funds, which she dumped into her horse farm over a 29-year period.
    • The judges involved in the "kids for cash" and Joe Francis scandals, as detailed below in Hanging Judge.
    • The Minerals Management Service, the former branch of the Department of the Interior which regulated the oil industry, became so ridiculously corrupt and compromised by corporate influence that it was abolished after the Deepwater Horizon spill.
  • Corrupt Church:
    • Peter Popoff's "healing" ministry and Jim Bakker's PTL Network.
    • The Missionaries of Charity, Mother Teresa's organization, compounded the plight of Calcutta's poor rather than helped it by forcing patients to endure their illnesses in squalid conditions with little medical care, misappropriated donations, and sold babies to the rich at exhorbitant prices.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive:
    • The executives at A.H. Robins Company who greenlit the Dalkon Shield while blatantly covering up its side effects.
    • Michael Pearson and Martin Shkreli, two pharmaceutical executives who infamously got themselves and their shareholders rich by jacking up the prices of life-saving drugs.
    • Robert E. Murray, the founder of Murray Energy, ran a company that routinely ignored industry regulations until the collapse of his Utah mine killed six.
  • Corrupt Politician:
    • Paul Powell, Illinois' 31st Secretary of State, was involved in massive bribery and cronyism, but this didn't become public knowledge until after Powell's death.
    • David Friedland was a crooked New Jersey state assemblyman who faced racketeering charges until he faked his own death and fled to the Maldives.
    • Averted in the notorious case of R. Budd Dwyer, Pennsylvania's 30th State Treasurer, who was accused of taking a bribe from a California company in exchange for a contract. The reality was that Dwyer was set up by the real guilty parties, and railroaded by a prosecutor with ties to Pennsylvania's governor, who held a petty grudge against Dwyer.
    • Speaking of Pennsylvania, the coal country of the state's northeast, including Luzerne County, is such a cesspool of corruption that Chicago mayor and machine boss Richard J. Daley dubbed it "the political brothel of America." Commissioner Greg Skrepenak was just one of many bent politicians produced by Luzerne County.
    • Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick of Detroit went to great lengths to cover up a wild party where his wife allegedly assaulted an exotic dancer who later ended up dead, committed perjury over whether he and his female chief of staff were engaged in an affair, led an administration rife with cronyism, and ended up being sentenced to 28 years in prison for corruption after leaving office.
    • The seven members of Congress, plus several lower-level city and state officials, who were caught up in the ABSCAM sting.
    • Senator Robert Kerr of Oklahoma, the founder of the Kerr-McGee energy company and a former governor, was discovered after his death to have collected bribes during his otherwise illustrious career.
  • Couch Gag: Starting a few episodes into Season 4, the Citizen credits his music to "Trevor Howard, aka Deformr, aka" which is then followed by a title related to the episode.
  • Cowboy BeBop at His Computer: In-Universe. One of the things which gave Belle Gibson away as a cancer faker was that she measured her purported tumors in stages, when in reality they are measured in grades.
  • Crappy Carnival: Lapland New Forest quickly became infamous for its malfunctioning, zero-quality attractions, and its organizers were jailed for misleading advertising.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Tania Head exhaustively researched the 9/11 attacks — about victims she later claimed to have met, about the company at the World Trade Center she claimed to have worked at, and even about the architectural layout of the Twin Towers — to make her story of being a survivor more believable.
  • Creepy Monotone: The Concerned Citizen's delivery.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check: The Tri-State Crematory scandal baffled everyone involved since it would be far simpler and just as profitable to cremate the bodies legitimately instead of dumping them in the woods and handing over fake ashes. Even the man responsible, Brent Marsh, admitted in court "To those of you who may have come here today looking for answers, I cannot give you." It was eventually discovered that Marsh was suffering from mercury poisoning induced by lack of ventilation in the cremation room which affected his mental faculties.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Concerned Citizen, as a result of his monotonic delivery.
    • The Citizen highlights some of the appropriately vicious snark given to cancer fraudster Belle Gibson by Channel Nine presenter Tara Brown in their interview:
      Tara Brown: You claimed, also in your book, that you underwent chemotherapy and radiotherapy for two months. True or false?
      Belle Gibson: At the time...
      Tara Brown: True or false?
      Belle Gibson: True, because at the time I believed I was having radiotherapy.
      Tara Brown: So false.
  • Death by Irony: Michael Mastromarino, whose company sold often contaminated bone and tissue grafts that infected several unsuspecting medical patients ended up dying of bone cancer at age 49. Mastromarino was said to have chuckled at the irony once he was diagnosed.
  • Deathbed Confession: Joseph Pleamons, who testified against Richard Bailey at his trial, admitted to his role in Helen Brach's murder by the Chicago horse mafia shortly before his death due to illness. The police corroborated much of his account.
  • Despair Event Horizon: Deborah Jean Palfrey crossed this after her conviction, and decided to hang herself because it was her only "exit strategy" to avoid prison.
  • Devil's Advocate: Literally. When the matter of elevating Mother Teresa to sainthood was raised, Christopher Hitchens was brought in to argue against it (he described the experience as "working for the Devil pro bono").
  • Dirty Cop:
    • Deputy Frankie Bybee ingratiated himself with an emotionally troubled elderly woman, initially posing as a friend and guardian angel of sorts. But he began harassing her for details about her financial holdings, then had her committed under false pretenses so that he could ransack her house and steal her money — even selling her dog on Craigslist. And when the woman complained to the police department and an investigation was opened, he broke into her house and attempted to kill her. Bybee was eventually sentenced to 15 years in prison, though prosecutors wanted him put away for 70.
    • Lieutenant Joe Gliniewicz was secretly embezzling money from his department's training program for years, and killed himself (after staging a murder scene) when an audit threatened to expose what he had done. Gliniewicz was also suspended several times for sexual harassment and Rabid Cop tendencies, which included pulling a gun on a dispatcher, which wasn't publicized until after his death.
  • Disaster Dominoes:
    • The Flint water crisis, as detailed in "The Switch":
      • In 2013, in an attempt to save money in water treatment fees, the city of Flint, Michigan, arranged to have water treatment responsibilities transferred from Detroit to Flint itself. While a new system was built that would take water from Lake Michigan, an interim system was made to take water from the Flint River. Although a system of lead pipes serviced Flint, lead contamination was kept in check by adding a chemical that prevented corrosion and microbial contamination. Chlorine compounds would also be added to help kill harmful bacteria.
      • Likely as a cost-cutting measure, the anti-corrosion chemical was not added to the interim system, the pipes corroded, and dangerous amounts of lead were unleashed into the water supply. The chlorine that was added to the Flint water reacted with the unprotected pipes, further speeding up the corrosion and release of lead into the water.
      • Without the anti-corrosion chemicals, the chlorine compounds reacted with the metal pipes, rendering them useless for killing bacteria and leading to an increase of waterborne disease. By the time authorities finally took action in 2015, twelve people died and dozens more were rendered ill, thousands of homes were contaminated with water that could legally qualify as toxic waste, and what was supposed to be a cost-cutting measure became an expensive cleanup operation.
    • The Challenger launch, as detailed in "The Space Program":
      • NASA's publicity stunt of recruiting Christa McAuliffe, a public school teacher from New Hampshire who would have been the first private citizen to travel in space, created much incentive for NASA to ensure that the upcoming mission proceed with as few issues as possible, which would later be determined to have caused the space agency to downplay or ignore major warnings about the faulty O-rings in Challenger 's solid rocket boosters.
      • The shuttle launch was supposed to occur on January 22, 1986. However, a series of delays caused them to push it back until January 28th. Reportedly, the Reagan Administration pressured NASA to proceed with the launch on that date, come what may, to coincide with the president's State of the Union address, which would have mentioned McAuliffe.
      • On January 27th, engineers for Morton-Thiokol, the company who made the O-rings, realized that the launch date would be unsuitable as the O-rings were not rated for a launch temperature so low (they were rated at 40 degrees F, while launch day would only have it at 30) and desperately called NASA for a conference call to beg the group to delay the launch until it got warmer. NASA refused. Morton-Thiokol tried again, but only with the management of the Kennedy and Marshall Space Centers. They were again refused. Amazingly, Morton-Thiokol management then gave the thumbs up for the launch to proceed, with one shocked engineer admitting to his wife that Challenger would be destroyed.
      • The day of the launch, Rockwell International, the main contractors for NASA's shuttles, was aghast at the amount of ice on Challenger and feared that build up could damage the shuttle upon ascent. As well, the temperature that day was colder than most launches, at about 28 degrees F. Rockwell tried to warn NASA to scuttle the mission, but they ended up only delaying until around 11:38 AM.
      • Everything went swell until, over a minute after launch, everything fell apart, hot gases escaped from a hole created from the damaged O-rings as well as sudden wind sheer, causing a series of cascading failures that lead to the shuttle's sad disintegration on live television.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Governor Richard Thornburgh of Pennsylvania embarked on a vendetta against State Treasurer Budd Dwyer — eventually ending in Dwyer's engineered disgrace and public suicide — because Dwyer followed the law and refused to make state taxpayers foot the bill for the travel expenses of Thornburgh's wife during a foreign visit.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • The Citizen discussing the corrupt actions of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick:
    • While discussing the Milli Vanilli scandal, the Citizen wonders what would the public reaction be if it happened today: would there have still been public outrage, or would one half of the public despise them while the other half not only still believe them to be actual singers, but also the best singers in history?
    • In "The Conductor" bonus episode, the Citizen remarks that John McAfee's 2016 Presidential run was doomed to failure because there was no way the American people would elect an "unhinged narcissist" for President.
  • Domestic Abuse: Mark D'Amico to his girlfriend/co-conspirator Kate McClure.
  • Doomed Expedition: "The Space Program" covers examples of this concerning space travel, most notably Soyuz 1 and the Space Shuttle Challenger.
  • Downer Ending:
    • "Bhopal." Aside from compensation that amounted to little more than a pittance, neither Union Carbide nor its former CEO, Warren Anderson, ever answered for the hundreds of thousands of deaths caused by the Bhopal gas leak. And despite the culpable homicide warrant against Anderson, the Indian government has not shown much will to pursue either him or Carbide for fear of scaring away foreign investment. Meanwhile, the survivors in Bhopal are mired in poverty and continue to live with the environmental impact of the leak decades later, needing to have water rationed to them from elsewhere because their groundwater has been contaminated.
    • Both stories in "The Contestant." Michael Larson quickly spent a lot of his winnings from Press Your Luck on frivilous get-rich-quick schemes, such as buying $30,000 worth of $1 lottery tickets to win a radio contest, and had the rest stolen in a burglary. He lost his wife and died of throat cancer while on the run from the Feds over a scam. Charles Ingram lost his military career after he was caught cheating on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, and he and his family faced threats and harassment for years afterwards.
    • The story of the D.C. Madam, Deborah Jean Palfrey, ends with her crossing the Despair Event Horizon and hanging herself rather than repeat the ordeal of going to prison and having no life once she got out. And the powerful men who solicited the services of her escort service went on to have careers in the private sector without ever being held accountable for their crimes.
    • The aftermath of the Milli Vanilli scandal does not end well for either Rob or Fab, with the former spiraling into drug addiction before finally being Driven to Suicide and the latter pursuing a music career on his own terms but ultimately being unable to live down his role in the affair. Meanwhile Frank Farian, the man who orchestrated the whole thing, faces zero legal repercussions.
    • "The Grant". The South Dakota Gear Up program barely benefited the Native American students it was supposed to help. Despite being in the words of A Concerned Citizen "almost more of a criminal enterprise", only three people were arrested due to the scandal. Of those three people, two were acquitted, and the last one got a slap on the wrist. A class action lawsuit by Native American students was dismissed due to lack of standing. So in short, guilty parties go free, and Native Americans get no restitution.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • One episode covers Budd Dwyer and the bribery scandal which ultimately led to his televised suicide.
    • Millionaire fraudster Michael Marin consumed a cyanide capsule which then killed him in the courtroom immediately after his conviction.
    • Lt. Joe Gliniewicz elaborately staged his suicide to look like a gangland hit before his embezzlement from the Fox Hill Police could be uncovered.
    • Deborah Jean Palfrey, the D.C. Madam, hanged herself in her mother's garden shed before she could be returned to prison.
    • Far-right pastor and Louisville city councilman Dan Johnson took his own life after he was revealed to have embellished his background and molested an underage girl.
    • Frances Burge was a woman who joined Martin Frankel's BDSM sex cult and subsequently had her self esteem driven into the ground when he treated her like a perpetual Un Favorite, eventually leading her to hang herself.
    • Chiquita Brands CEO Eli M. Black found himself in dutch with the SEC over a $1.25 million bribe to the president of Honduras. He jumped out of his 44th floor office in the Pan-Am Building to his death on the northbound ramp of Park Avenue.
    • Joe Stack was a tax protester who, facing an audit from the IRS, brought his decades-long beef with the agency to a head when he flew his light aircraft into the IRS offices in Austin, Texas, killing himself and one worker inside.
  • Dumb Crooks: Joshua Paul Calhoun is noted, even by one of the cops pursuing him, for being not very bright. Of particular note was when he drove his pickup to an airport, stole and crashed an airplane, realized he had left his pickup at a hangar, was caught by police trying to sneak the truck away from the scene of the theft, then finally tried to sell them a bullshit story while still bearing fresh facial injuries from the plane crash.
  • Dysfunction Junction: "The Space Program":
    • The Rogers Commission found that NASA suffered from a bad case of this in the period leading up to the Challenger disaster, with the agency's leadership exhibiting a sense of institutional arrogance since their Apollo successes and putting NASA's public image ahead of the safety of their astronauts. There were also internal rivalries between the R&D groups at the Kennedy, Marshall, and Johnson Space Centers which hindered NASA's response to warnings about the Challenger defect. Worse still, none of these issues were rectified after the commission made its report and NASA's dysfunction contributed to the loss of Columbia two decades later.
    • The Soviet space program was even worse in this regard, leading not only to the death of Vladimir Komarov but also several pre-flight accidents which were covered up for the sake of PR.
  • Eat the Rich: Averted. Although rich individuals tend to be villains in the stories he tells, the Concerned Citizen does not wish harm on rich people in general and criticizes this attitude in the Fyre Festival episode.
  • Elder Abuse: Frank Bybee's treatment of 79-year-old Marcia Sohl starts off as emotional abuse (pressuring her into divulging details about her finances), borderline Gaslighting (staging a mental breakdown to get her out of the house while he ransacks the place), and finally attempted murder when she files a complaint with Frank's police department (breaking into her house to violently assault her, then trying to fill the house with carbon monoxide when smothering doesn't work).
  • Engineered Heroics: Pat Johnson, a colorful Austin, Texas, resident known for harassing local towing companies, assisted some of the victims of a series of rock-throwing attacks against motorists that terrorized the city for two years. Then it turns out that Pat was responsible for the rock-throwing attacks in the first place.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: According to Joseph Pleamons's account, Helen Brach's friend and handyman Jack Matlick — already in on a burglary of Helen's house by the Chicago horse mafia — assisted the burglars in beating Helen into unconsciousness in her living room to tie up a loose end.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Barely, in the case of Martin Frankel. While he was a serial fraudster and the leader of a creepy BDSM sex cult, he eventually drew the line when a member of his harem offered up a newborn baby for him to rape. Despite seriously considering the offer, he decided against it.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: Sunil Verma and two of his siblings were the only survivors out of a family of twelve who were killed by the Bhopal gas leak. Most of their neighbors living near the Union Carbide plant, including other entire families, were wiped out in the disaster.
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • As disgusting as he finds Joe Francis to be, the Citizen does not approve of the way Panama Beach, Florida, authorities blatantly abused the legal process to persecute him.
    • The Citizen also calls out the Eat the Rich attitude many people exhibited towards the attendees of the Fyre Festival, pointing out that they were still someone's loved ones.
    • "The Sting": Penthouse proprietor Bob Guccione, unknowingly being targeted by the ABSCAM sting, balked at the idea of engaging in bribery to prop up his failing Atlantic City casino with the statement, "Are you out of your mind?" The Citizen notes the irony of a smut peddler like Guccione having better ethics than the numerous politicians who were taken down by ABSCAM.
  • Everything Is Racist: Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick tried to spin his numerous corruption scandals as a smear campaign against him by Detroit's white police force and press. It worked for him initially, but not forever.
  • Evil, Inc.:
    • The A.H. Robins Company covered up the ineffectiveness of the Dalkon Shield intrauterine device, and rushed the product to market despite being repeatedly warned that the IUD posed a physical hazard to the women using it.
    • Union Carbide left behind a trail of mass death as the result of the accidental release of methyl isocyanate in Bhopal, India, which officially led to almost 3,800 deaths (though some estimates suggest 5,000 or more) and to Carbide's CEO being declared a fugitive by Indian courts.
    • FIFA, and its subsidiaries such as CONCACAF, are ridiculously corrupt, engaging in bribery to determine the host countries for multiple World Cups, unilaterally pressuring legislatures to change their laws to accommodate corporate sponsorships, and facilitating human rights abuses and slave labor in Qatar.
    • Nestle, "the most evil company in the world", engaged in aggressive marketing to push its breast milk substitute to mothers in Third World countries. It didn't make nearly as much effort on making sure the sometimes-illiterate mothers could administer the formula properly, or warn them that diluting it with unsanitary water could give their babies life-threatening health complications. Millions of infant deaths worldwide were the result, leading to the 1977 Nestle boycott. Then there are Nestle's practices of privatizing aquifers, fixing prices, and using slaves and child laborers.
    • Biomedical Tissue Services was a Brooklyn company which harvested bones and organs from cadavers without the consent of the deceased or their families, and performed said harvesting without any care towards hygiene, meaning that hundreds of patients who were given BTS-harvested transplants fell ill and/or died.
    • Poly Implant Prothese (PIP) was a French manufacturer of silicone gel breast implants which substituted government-approved medical silicone with un-approved industrial silicone in their products, and did so for thirteen years. Not only did the company's founder plainly state that this was done as a cost-cutting measure, but he refused to admit he did anything wrong and attacked PIP's victims, whose implants had burst and put them in danger of getting cancer.
    • Kerr-McGee presided over insanely dangerous working conditions at their uranium processing plant in Oklahoma — effectively dooming its employees to plutonium-induced cancers, covering up faulty control rods that could have potentially caused a nuclear catastrophe, and allowing sixty pounds of plutonium to go missing — and was possibly involved in the death of whistleblower Karen Silkwood.
    • Agriprocessors was a purportedly kosher abbatoir in Iowa which was notorious for being very un-kosher in their extremely violent slaughtering methods, and for forcing undocumented and underage workers to perform in dangerous conditions. It says something when one observer compares conditions at the plant to The Jungle while PETA comes out of the situation as the good guys.
    • Chiquita, a.k.a. United Fruit Company, a.k.a. El Lopo (or The Octopus) has been a bull in the china shop that is Central America for over a century. Since it's inception, the company: turned Guatemala into the Ur-Example for the Banana Republic by monopolizing the country; bullied numerous governments into acting in the interests of the company rather than their own people; used its connections in Washington to help depose any heads of state who refused to play along; facilitated full-scale massacres of striking villagers; subsidized violent far-right paramilitary groups in order to protect their assets in war zones; and exposed plantation workers to the toxic pesticide diaborachloropropane (DBCP), which causes birth defects in their children (if the workers haven't been rendered sterile, that is).
      • Chiquita's competitor, Dole, deserves an honorable mention. Not only did they expose their own banana workers with DBCP, but their strategy for weathering the subsequent class action suit was to wait for the plaintiffs to eventually die off (since they have no future generations who will continue the suit).
    • Bayer AG has a lot of skeletons in its closet. While the company is credited with the invention of aspirin, they can be also credited with the invention of heroin. Bayer (or, as it was known at the time, IG Farben) also invented the poison gas Zyklon B and profited from slave labor during The Holocaust, even using Jewish detainees from Auschwitz in twisted medical experiments. Then in The '80s, Bayer and its subsidiary, Cutter Laboratories, refused to pull AIDS-tainted Factor VIII medication for hemophiliacs from the market, and knowingly sold the tainted batch overseas even after a safer supply was found, to protect their bottom line; countless hemophiliacs worldwide contracted AIDS and died as a result.
    • BP had a history of oil spills and environmental disasters even before the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout, and preoccupied itself with downplaying or covering up their culpability in the catastrophic spill instead of doing actual cleanup. BP's management failed to earn public sympathy by expressing (more than once) dismay at how the disaster would affect them rather than communities along the Gulf of Mexico that were negatively impacted by the spill, to say nothing of the local wildlife.
  • The Faceless: The Concerned Citizen has never identified himself, and images of him distributed on social media always obscure his face.
  • Failed a Spot Check: The fake invoices Rita Crundwell used to embezzle from the town of Dixon were ridiculously bad, full of typos and misspellings and in many cases missing the official seal. More egregiously, the invoices were for fake public works bridges. As the Concerned Citizen points out, a bridge, or rather the lack of the bridge you're ostensibly paying for, should be pretty hard to miss, but she got away with it for over twenty years. (As Rita was actually friends with most of the people in the auditing department, a conflict of interest which was never fixed, it's possible the metaphorical spot check was never made in the first place.)
  • Fake Band: "The Tour" focuses on Threatin, a one-man "band" that gained infamy for its ill-fated 2018 European tour. Despite releasing real music, Jered "Threatin" Eames note  bought Facebook followers and YouTube views and comments to artificially grow his social media presence. He tricked venues in the UK, France, Germany, and Italy into giving him appearances, lying about ticket sales to both the venues and to his touring bandmates to keep the show on the road.
  • Faking the Dead:
    • "The Canoe Man" features John Darwin, who conspired with his wife Anne to fake his own death at sea in order to collect his life insurance. He secretly lived with his wife for five years until he staged his "return", but was quickly found out and jailed for fraud for over six years. His wife was given a similar sentence.
    • The episode's prelude covers David Friedland, a New Jersey state assemblyman who faked his death by drowning to dodge racketeering charges and fled to the Maldives, where he set up a scuba-diving store chain.
    • The Patreon-exclusive Bonus episode "The Mortician" has a spin on this - the scammers fake the deaths of people who never existed in the first place.
  • Fake Ultimate Hero:
    • Fred Parisi and Charles Guiles both falsely claimed to be 9/11 first responders who engaged in a ridiculous amount of heroics, and used their stories to raise and misappropriate charitable contributions.
    • Pastor and city councilman Dan Johnson claimed that he rushed to participate in the rescue efforts on 9/11, set up a makeshift morgue, and administered last rites to victims for two weeks. Investigative journalists discovered that he made up these heroics.
  • Fat Bastard: CONCACAF General Secretary Chuck Blazer weighed 400 pounds, relied on a mobility scooter, and was knee-deep in FIFA's corrupt dealings until he turned informant.
  • Fingore: The Patreon bonus episode "The Chili" concerns a severed human finger that was allegedly discovered in Wendy's chili, which became the centerpeice of a Frivolous Lawsuit.
  • Flat "What": Showcased in "The Lucky Winner" when the Citizen first hears about Eddie Tipton's hobby:
    Reporter: Today the prosecutor asked a judge to bar any discussion of Bigfoot-hunting at the upcoming trial of Eddie Tipton.
    (soundtrack stops)
    Concerned Citizen: Wait... what.
    Reporter: Tipton and his friends reportedly hunt for Bigfoot for fun in their spare time.
    Concerned Citizen: ...Never mind.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Teacher-turned-astronaut Christa McAuliffe is interviewed by Johnny Carson, who repeats a joke from another astronaut about how every part of the space capsule he was travelling in "was made by the lowest bidder". This turned out to be the root cause of the Challenger explosion which killed McAuliffe and the rest of the shuttle's crew.
    • During an archived talk show segment, a member of a studio audience states that Madalyn Murray O'Hair deserved to die the most agonizing death possible if she wasn't "saved" before passing on. In 1995, O'Hair, her son, and her granddaughter were kidnapped, murdered, and dismembered by a staff member who had been embezzling funds.
  • Framing the Guilty Party:
    • Richard Bailey was a serial conman who preyed upon rich women, and had ties to other criminals. He was convicted of the murder of one of his targets, candy heiress Helen Brach, via anti-racketerring laws despite there being no evidence of him being involved in the murder. Even when one of the witnesses at Bailey's trial admitted to participating in the murder, Bailey still remained in jail.
    • Joe Francis was an exploitative scumbag, but the authorities in Panama Beach, Florida who went after him went way too far, accusing him of racketeering, prostitution, and drug smuggling. They even accused Francis of having cocaine on his plane, which was an outright lie. Much of the evidence gathered against Francis was found to be obtained illegally, and most of the charges were thrown out.
  • Freudian Excuse:
    • One proposed explanation why Tania Head made up her story of being a 9/11 survivor is that she was attempting to cope with her previous trauma of her arm being severed (and latter reattached with scars and limited mobility) in a violent car crash.
    • Colton Harris Moore, the Barefoot Bandit, was raised in a deeply troubled home and repeatedly taken away from his parents due to alleged abuse. He was so neglected that, at the age of seven, he began living in the woods rather than at home. He was also diagnosed with depression and a severe behavioral disorder.
  • Frivolous Lawsuit:
    • Deconstructed in the episode "The Lawsuit", where the Concerned Citizen looks at the truth behind the myths of two of the most commonly cited examples of frivolous lawsuits and shows that they were really not the case:
      • Charles Bigbee gained infamy when he was hit by a drunk driver while using a phone booth and decided to sue the telephone company. As it turns out, Bigbee (who became permanently disabled and lost a leg as a result of the accident) did start with the logical step of suing the driver but only got a pittance because somehow the driver was never tested for alcohol after the accident and thus there was no proof she was drunk. Bigbee then discovered that the phone booth in question had already been hit and replaced multiple times (it was very close to a busy intersection) and yet the phone company never moved the booth or added guardrails (or at least made it so that the doors wouldn't suddenly jam which is what prevented Bigby from escaping). Bigbee pretty much had to sue to the phone company to get the money he needed to afford medical care as well as deal with the reduced employment opportunities from his new condition.
      • Stella Liebeck became the laughing stock of the nation when she sued McDonald's for $2.7 million after spilling hot coffee on herself. What is usually not mentioned is that Liebeck suffered multiple third degree burns as a result. Initially she just wanted McDonald's to pay for her medical bills but McDonald's would only pay for a fraction of that ammount. During the subsequent lawsuit, it was also discovered that McDonald's coffee caused over 700 injuries a year yet the company refused to lower its coffee temperature because the subsequent reduced shelf life would cost McDonald's more money than simply settling the lawsuits, showing gross negligence on their part. The $2.7 million also ended up getting slashed to $480,000 by the judge and Liebeck ended up settling for less than $300k after appeals.
    • Played straight in the Patreon bonus episode "The Chili", when Anna Ayala brought a fraudulent tort lawsuit against Wendy's after claiming to have found a severed human finger in her chili. Ayala was eventually outed as a scam artist who specialized in filing baselees lawsuits in order to reach out-of-court settlements.
  • The Gambling Addict: NBA referee Tim Donaghy's problems began with his gambling addiction, and he began betting on the games he was officiating so that he could pay back his debts.
  • Gilligan Cut: In the Patreon-exclusive episode "The Conductor", after ACC describes Kyle Sandler's plans for creating a startup incubator in a former train depot in Opelika, Alabama to take advantage of the town's fiber optic internet and give aspiring entrepreneurs an alternative to Silicon Valley:
    Concerned Citizen: I gotta admit, it's not the worst idea I ever heard.
    Sandler: My name is Kyle Sandler, I am the Founder and Conductor at The Round House. The "Founder" because I created it, "Conductor" because everyone here has a train name.
    [Soundtrack stops]
    Concerned Citizen: Wait, what? His title is "Conductor"? Everybody has a "train name"? Nevermind, this might be the worst idea I ever heard.
  • Good Victims, Bad Victims:
    • In the episode covering the Fyre Festival, it's noted that a popular reaction toward the unfolding disaster was to mock the misfortune of the attendees, who were perceived to be spoiled rich kids because they had paid $1,200 apiece for tickets to the Festival. The Citizen notes that rich though they may have been, the Festival-goers were still somebody's loved ones. He also credits them for behaving admirably in the scary and dangerous situation they had found themselves in, in comparison to the mob mentality of working class shoppers on Black Friday.
    • In the episode about the toxic breast implants manufactured by Poly Implant Prothese (PIP), it's explained that the women getting sick from the toxic implants had a hard time getting traction with their complaints at first, because of the public perception of women who get implants as vain bimbos who kind of had it coming it for being so frivolous (leaving aside the fact that many women who suffered were actually breast cancer survivors who'd had mastectomies, caring about your appearance enough to pay for it doesn't mean you deserve silicone leaking into your lymph nodes).
  • Grave Robbing: Micheal Mastromarino's Biomedical Tissue Services harvested valuable tissue and bone for medical use from corpses without the deceased or their family's consent via crooked funeral homes in BTS's payroll.
  • Greed: What else did you think a podcast covering white-collar crime was about? Each episode goes into white-collar criminals who try to take whatever they want with wire fraud, ponzi schemes, insurance fraud, buying Facebook followers and more...
  • Greater-Scope Villain: While Mother Teresa's flaws were numerous, in the end she was really a publicity tool that the Catholic Church used to distract from its pedophilia scandals.
  • Groin Attack: Among the side effects of DBCP poisoning are sterility and shriveled testicles.

    H - N 
  • Hanging Judge:
    • Budd Dwyer committed suicide in large part because the judge in his bribery trial, who had this reputation to begin with, had publicly promised to give Dwyer the harshest possible sentence.
    • Mark Ciavarella, a judge in Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, sentenced thousands of children to extended stays at for-profit juvenile detention centers for ludicrously trivial offenses. It turned out that both he and another judge, Michael Conahan, were taking kickbacks from said for-profit detention centers in what was called the "kids for cash" scandal.
    • The judge in Joe Francis's civil trial in Florida refuses to recuse himself despite having ties to the legal team opposing Francis, and does everything possible to railroad Francis into jail.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: In-Universe. This exchange between Christa McAuliffe and Johnny Carson, broadcast before the Challenger disaster and played in "The Space Program", is downright eerie.
    Johnny Carson: Are you in any way frightened of something like [a disaster]? It's a normal question because just the other day, it was kind of, they had a frightening— and one of the engines went out.
    Christa McAuliffe: Yes. Um, I really haven't thought of it in those terms because I see the shuttle program as a very safe program. But I think the disappointment—
    Johnny Carson: Who was it once said — Deke Slayton — they asked him how he felt. I may be giving credit to the wrong astronaut. He says, "How do you feel when you're up there in the capsule?" [Slayton] says, "It's a strange feeling when you realize every part on this capsule was made by the lowest bidder."
  • Happy Ending Override:
    • Love Canal was eventually evacuated and led to the passage of the Superfund law, but people started moving back in after the area was declared safe enough to be taken off the Superfund list. Now the illnesses and deaths caused by chemical exposure, which caused Love Canal's notoriety to begin with, have started again.
    • Dick Hall survived being held hostage by Tony Kiritsis, only to fall into alcoholism and lose his family and business. He also had to deal with the fact that the public sided with Kiritsis even though, contrary to what Kiritsis claimed, Hall had done nothing to justify being kidnapped and held hostage.
  • The Hedonist:
    • Joe Francis of the former Girls Gone Wild franchise was this trope personified.
    • After taking over Arrow Trucking, Doug Pielsticker reportedly spent much of his time in the office watching porn with his friends.
    • White collar criminal Martin Frankel set up a BDSM sex cult around himself, living with his harem in a large mansion estate in Connecticut and getting up to (or considering) some pretty twisted stuff sex-wise.
  • Heel Realization: How Christopher Hitchens interpreted Mother Teresa's secret letters in which she expressed a lack of faith in God, suggesting that she had realized she was being used as a public relations pawn by the Catholic Church.
  • Henpecked Husband: Charles Ingram is the person most people associate with the cheating scandal involving the UK version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, but the reality was that his wife Diana was the mastermind of the cheating and Charles was closer to this trope.
  • Here We Go Again!:
    • "The Switch" ends with the Citizen warning that, thanks to aging infrastructure and budget cuts, a repeat of the water crises in Washington, DC and Flint, Michigan is sure to happen in the near future. Cut to a clip of Prof. Mark Edwards, who played a key role in exposing the earlier cases, reporting that high levels of lead have been found in the drinking water of Newark.
    • "The Space Program" ends with the Space Shuttle Columbia being destroyed by the same organizational dysfunction within NASA which doomed the Space Shuttle Challenger, and a grim prediction by one of the Challenger whistleblowers that it might probably take repeated disasters before the agency gets its act together.
    • "The Spill" opens with the 1979 Ixtoc I spill and focuses on the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill, and ends with the impression that more spills are bound to happen thanks to the enduring coziness between the oil industry and government regulators.
  • Hero of Another Story: Lisa Druck, though "hero" is stretching it a bit in her case. As a young girl, she was a peripheral player in the horse murder scandals of the 1980s, after her father hired men to kill her horse, Henry the Hawk, for the insurance money. After changing her name to Rielle Hunter, she would become more notorious for her affair with presidential candidate John Edwards, which produced a daughter.
  • Hero Antagonist: Christopher Hitchens is presented as one in "The Saint", calling out Mother Teresa's actions and reputation for the sham it was, even to the point where the Vatican appointed him "devil's advocate" in the proceedings to decide her sainthood.
  • The Hero Dies: Karen Silkwood, the protagonist of "The Whistleblower", dies in a mysterious car accident before she can hand incriminating documents from her employer to a New York Times reporter.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • Prof. Mark Edwards was so disturbed by the implications of the Washington, DC water crisis that he suffered from insomnia and lost thirty-five pounds.
    • Engineers for Morton-Thiokol who unsuccessfully tried to prevent the Challenger launch struggled with feelings of guilt in the decades afterward, to the point of developing chronic health conditions.
  • History Repeats:
    • Decades after residents are relocated from Love Canal over harmful chemical exposure, new residents move in after being told that some parts of the area are now safe — only for chemical-related illnesses and deaths to start cropping up again.
    • In 2004, Prof. Mark Edwards of Virginia Tech exposed the lead contamination of Washington, DC's drinking water, along with a cover-up of the problem by local and federal health agencies. A decade later, Edwards is called in to Flint, Michigan after their water supply (recently switched from Lake Huron to the Flint River) was also contaminated with lead, which was again covered up by the authorities. Now more recently, after Edwards' repeated warnings of the consequences of failing to learn from these disasters, he has been summoned to investigate another case of lead contamination in Newark.
    • Many of the same institutional failures at NASA which contributed to the 1986 Challenger disaster would later lead to the 2003 Columbia disaster.
    • Becomes invoked in "The Spill", where the lessons of the 1979 Ixtoc spill were ignored and allowed the Deepwater Horizon disaster to occur thirty-one years later, and even the few measures taken by the Obama Administration to prevent a similar incident were undone by President Trump. The oil industry and its regulatory shortcomings are depicted as a never-ending cycle of exploitation and calamity. The Citizen even monologues about it:
      Concerned Citizen: The immediate and long-term effects of the massive Ixtoc oil spill will never be fully understood. Of course, studies conducted in the area have since found that the Ixtoc spill acutely affected the species and ecosystems in the Bay of Campeche. In parts, you can tell just by looking at it. Some species have rebounded, others shriveled up and died forever. But maybe one day those that we lost will become crude oil too, for which to be eventually sucked from the earth to be refined and molded, so to ultimately revisit us in the form of a plastic drinking straw, only to be used and abused and discarded into the ocean, where it will float to its final resting place lodged inside the throat of an endangered sea turtle. Maybe one day that sea turtle will become crude oil too, while the straw continues on its way drifting through the ocean, a spiritual journey with its friends to the great garbage patch in the Pacific. It's the natural cycle of life. Everything repeats, and nothing is ever learned.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard:
    • Fugitive politician David Friedland was captured after he drew attention to himself by opening a successful scuba-diving business in the Maldives.
    • The criminal profiled in the bonus episode "The Birthday Party" had his family appear on My Super Sweet Sixteen. Flaunting his ill-gotten wealth in such a public fashion meant he put a target on his back for state and federal investigators.
  • Hope Spot:
    • Premature reports that most of the Sago miners had been rescued caused West Virginia's governor and the miners' loved ones to celebrate the "miracle." It was only moments later that they learned that all but one of the miners had died.
    • The residents of Flint, Michigan thought that switching the source of their water supply from distant Detroit to the Flint River would put the city on a better track after three decades of economic malaise. Then they learned the hard way that local and state officials so badly mishandled the switch that they had been put at risk of lead poisoning by their new drinking water, leading to adverse health effects and a serious crisis of confidence towards their leaders.
    • The verdict against Dole Food Company for toxic pesticide exposure is greeted with celebration in the streets in Nicaragua. Then the verdict is overturned when the Amoral Attorney handling the lawsuit is revealed to have recruited people off the streets to commit perjury against Dole.
  • Hostage Situation:
    • "The Hostage" covers the cases of Clay Allen Duke and Tony Kiritsis.
    • Subverted in "The Delivery Man", where Brian Wells initially appeared to be a hostage who robbed a bank against his will, only to later be found to have been in on it.
  • Ho Yay: Invoked. The Citizen compares Chuck Blazer's "starry-eyed recollection" of meeting Vladimir Putin to a romance novel, and had an associate narrate it as such set to a sexy saxophone soundtrack:
    Blazer: As the large doors to his private inner sanctum swung open, I was greeted by a smiling and very affable leader of the government, Mr. Putin himself. A firm handshake and a personable smile set the tone for what turned out to be a very special experience. He guided me to sit on a leather couch in the near right corner of the room. At right angles to that couch was another matching one where he took up his position so that we flanked the corner of a large wood bordered coffee table. The conversation began in a normal enough way, each of us thanking the other for making time for the visit. Genial welcomes continued until at one moment, he looked at me with a very serious gaze and said, without cracking a smile, "You know, you look like Karl Marx!" I guess I could have responded to his observation in any of a dozen unpredictable ways. Instead, I simply winked at him and said, "I know". This brought an immediate response with him lifting his right arm up in the air and thrusting it forward to give me my first high five from a Prime Minister!
    Concerned Citizen: ...Grossinvoked.
  • Human Popsicle: Colton "The Barefoot Bandit" Moore makes a rare public re-appearance after his parole when he attempts to crowdfund enough money to have his cancer-stricken mother cryogenically frozen. Unfortunately, the goal falls short and Colton's mother dies.
  • Hurricane of Puns:
    • The Patreon-exclusive bonus episode about Enzyte. As Enzyte was a male enhancement pill, the episode is full of Double Entendres.
    • Similarly, the bonus episode "The Pigeon King" has tons of bird puns.
  • Hypocrite:
    • Lawyers for the A.H. Robins Company ask intimate questions of plaintiffs in lawsuits over the Dalkon Shield intrauterine device in order to deter any further litigation. But when a lawyer for the one of the plaintiffs asks a member of the Robins legal team similarly personal questions about his wife (who herself used the Dalkon Shield device) he repeatedly tries to dodge them. The Robins lawyer also reluctantly admits that he would want to be warned about the potential side effects of the device, even though he has been trying to make the case that Robins doesn't have to give such warnings.
    • Rev. Jimmy Swaggart criticized Jim Bakker for having sex with Jessica Hahn, while making a big show of portraying himself as morally superior, only to be caught red-handed in the company of a prostitute. Twice.
      • Zig-zagged in the case of Pastor Dan Johnson of Heart of Fire Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Johnson expounded a similar moralistic agenda as Swaggart (punctuated by racism), yet his church was known for showing off topless women and selling alcohol to minors. Johnson became a more straight example when he raped an underage member of the church.
    • Mark D'Amico justifies withholding Johnny Bobbitt, Jr.'s money, raised via GoFundMe, by stating that he doesn't want to enable Johnny's heroin addiction. Johnny counters that Mark is using the money to feed his own gambling addiction. Johnny's point packs less of a punch after it turns out he and Mark originally met at a casino and colluded to defraud GoFundMe.
    • Charles Giles, an EMT and injured 9/11 first responder, went on record saying that Fred Parisi, who lied about his heroics during 9/11 to set up a fake charity for injured survivors so he could keep the money for himself, "deserves to rot in jail". As it turned out, Giles himself was lying about his injuries, proximity to Ground Zero and financial situation to receive donations from the public.
    • Several characters in "The Madam" episode are goverment figures who are trying to criminalize or enforce laws against prostitution. They are then found to have been seeing prostitutes.
    • Robert E. Murray accused the government of "playing politics with the lives of [his] employees" when the pressure was on to adopt more stringent safety regulations in the wake of the Sago disaster, but didn't care about their lives enough to draft stringent safety regulations himself. He also used his cable news platform to claim that the government was butting in on the affairs of the coal industry, only to later beg President Trump for an emergency bailout when his company was on the verge of bankruptcy due to falling demand for coal.
    • During his public pressure campaign against unscrupulous local towing companies, Pat Johnson resorted to fearmongering by suggesting that children might fall victim to sexual predators in their employ. Johnson himself was later sentenced to 99 years in prison for sexually assaulting a teenaged boy.
    • Mother Teresa denied the patients at her Calcutta mission access to life-saving medical care on the premise that they needed to suffer as Christ had done, but showed no qualms about getting that medical care for herself when she dealt with chronic health problems later in life.
  • Hypocritical Humor: The Citizen gives a very tongue-in-cheek example in "The Tour", where he delivers a moral to the Milli Vanilli story and appears ready to launch into an anti-consumerist diatribe, only to take a sharp left turn:
    Concerned Citizen: Listen up, kids. Authenticity is rare. It's important to understand that not everything you see or hear is real. And it is important to understand that sometimes the media targeted at you has no artistic merit. In fact, some media is created with the sole purpose of serving as a vehicle to shove advertisements into your consciousness. It's true of radio, it's true of movies and television, and it's especially true... of podcasts. [Cut to the Citizen narrating a plug for another podcast]
  • I Am Not Spock: In-Universe. After being paroled from prison, Colton Harris Moore did everything he could to distance himself from his past as the Barefoot Bandit.
  • I Have No Son!: After her son Bill became a born-again Christian, Madalyn Murray O'Hair publicly repudiated him in no uncertain terms. They completely cut off contact and never spoke again.
  • Inadequate Inheritor: Jim Pielsticker spent thirty-four years building Arrow Trucking into an industry leader, and in all that time treated the company and its employees responsibly. It took his son Doug just eight years to destroy the company with incompetence, laziness, nepotism, and fraudulent financial practices. Remember Colin Farrell's character in Horrible Bosses? That might as well have been a Ripped from the Headlines version of Doug.
  • Infant Immortality: Sunil Verma's baby brother Sanjay survived the Bhopal disaster, but many others didn't.
  • Innocence By Contradiction: William Trickett Smith testified at his own trial that Budd Dwyer had refused to accept a bribe in exchange for bid rigging. At Dwyer's trial, where Smith was the prosecution's star witness, Smith changed his story and affirmed that Dwyer took the bribe. Despite Smith contradicting himself, the jury convicted Dwyer anyway.
  • Insurance Fraud:
    • The motivation for the horse murders. Wealthy owners hired Tommy "The Sandman" Burns to kill their horses so that they could collect the insurance on them. Most of the horses were electrocuted because Burns considered the method undetectable and "humane."
    • John Darwin faked his own drowning so that he and his family could collect the insurance claim and pay off their mortgage. He secretly lived with his wife Anne for five years while everybody in town, including his children, assumed he was dead.
    • Micheal Marin tried to avoid financial ruin by putting a huge insurance policy on his house and setting it on fire. Unfortunately for Marin, authorities got suspicious of the fact that Marin escaped by using a scuba tank and rope ladder he just happened to have in his bedroom closet, the fact that none of Marin's rare artwork was in the house at the time... and the several stacks of phone books scattered around the house to spread the fire as well as four acetone containers in different points of the house to light it.
    • Lou Pearlman repurposed an old logging balloon into a barely functional blimp that he then managed to insure as if it was an actual blimp (i.e. for far more than its actual value). Pearlman then rented the blimp to the clothing company Jordache for advertisement purposes, only for the blimp to crash spectacularly. While its unclear if Pearlman meant for the blimp to crash on purpose, he still managed to get enough money to buy a real blimp with the insurance company none the wiser.
    • Patreon-exclusive bonus episodes add cases of dismemberment and even murder just so remorseless criminals can pocket insurance money (plus other benefits). There's also a mortician who faked the deaths of people who never even existed.
  • It's All My Fault: Bob Ebeling, one of the Morton-Thiokol engineers who unsuccessfully tried to warn NASA about the O-ring defect on the Space Shuttle Challenger, spent decades afterward blaming himself for not doing more to prevent the explosion. He only came to terms with it shortly before his death in 2016.
    Bob Ebeling: And I think that was one of the mistakes at God made. He shouldn't have picked me for that job. I don't know, but next time I talk to him, I'm gonna ask him, "Why me? You picked a loser!"
  • Justice by Other Legal Means: The Belle Gibson scandal was a case where this trope was utilized by journalists rather than lawmen. The two reporters for the Melbourne Age who broke the story knew they didn't have enough evidence that Gibson was faking her cancer diagnosis, so they instead pursued evidence that she had misappropriated charitable contributions.
  • Justified Criminal:
    • Deconstructed by the protagonists of "The Hostage." While the Citizen is normally sympathetic to common people victimized by corrupt interests, he doesn't gloss over the abundant evidence that both Clay Allen Duke and Tony Kiritsis were emotionally disturbed people.
    • Also deconstructed by Joe Stack in the prologue for "The Vigilante." The Citizen agrees with many parts of Stack's manifesto in which he criticizes the American income tax and healthcare systems, but also agrees that Stack's decision to fly his plane into the IRS building in Austin (killing one worker and injuring others who had nothing to do with writing the tax code Stack had beef with) did more harm to his cause than good.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Neither Dr. Hugh Davis nor the executives at A.H. Robins were ever held criminally responsible for the illnesses and deaths caused by the Dalkon Shield intrauterine device, save for a few monetary judgments against Robins, because they technically didn't break the law (since devices like the Shield didn't fall under FDA purview at the time). Subverted in that while Davis was never punished for his actions, his professional disgrace coupled with his paranoia did cause him to go insane.
    • Union Carbide CEO Warren Anderson died in 2014 without ever having to answer to an Indian culpable homicide charge in relation to the Bhopal disaster. Carbide itself gave away a pittance in compensation to the survivors, and walked away scot-free.
    • Despite being exposed as frauds and/or hypocrites, televangelists Peter Popoff, Jim Bakker, and Jimmy Swaggart have returned to television and found new ways to rip off their followers.
    • None of the powerful men who solicited the services of the D.C. Madam's escort service were ever held criminally liable. The most notable of them, Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, was even elected to a second term.
    • The banana companies Chiquita and Dole get away with some I pretty heinous deeds thanks to unethical and/or illegal actions by the people pursuing them (journalistic misconduct and legal malpractice, respectively).
    • Ten of the twenty-four directors of IG Farben (known today as Bayer AG) were acquitted at the Nuremberg Trials, and the ones found guilty spent eight years in prison at most. Fritz ter Meer, who unapologetically stated that the Jewish detainees his company experimented on were better off than they would have been in the camps, returned to Bayer after his release from prison (having served just three years) and served as Chairman of the Board until his retirement in 1964. Bear in mind, the prosecutor at the IG Farben trial found the defendants so repulsive that he stated they were worse than Hitler.
    • Far from someone who helped the poor of Calcutta, Mother Teresa actually deliberately went out of her way to make their lives worse out of service to her religious ideology and caused much death and suffering. But the public image she had built around herself afforded her to be mourned the world over when she died, and allowed her to be fast-tracked to sainthood.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty:
    • Jim Bakker wins his initial battles with the FCC and the IRS thanks to the Reagan Administration's efforts to appease the conservative evangelical community. This advantage vanishes after Bakker is accused of rape by Jessica Hahn, which combined with renewed financial investigations causes the PTL ministry to collapse.
    • Despite his numerous corruption scandals, Kwame Kilpatrick managed to rally well enough to win a second term as mayor of Detroit. Then he was forced to resign in disgrace and was later sentenced to 28 years in prison.
    • Robert E. Murray never went to jail for his company's role in the Carroll Canyon disaster, and started a career as a cable news pundit who successfully convinced President Trump to lift Obama-era regulations on the coal industry. But the "Mine" episode notes that Murray is fighting what is ultimately a losing battle to save the coal industry, since demand for coal is precipitously dropping.
    • Chiquita has mostly gotten away with running roughshod over numerous impoverished countries in Central America. Yet "The Octopus" ends with a class action suit against the company by several Guatemalan citizens remaining unresolved, while a news report talks about a new fungus which is wiping out banana crops. The implication is that if the courts don't make Chiquita pay for their crimes, nature will.
  • Kick the Dog: Or rather, sell the dog. Deputy Bybee has an elderly woman committed under false pretenses, and ostensibly agrees to look after her prized terrier — which he immediately sells on Craigslist.
  • The Last of These Is Not Like the Others:
    • Noted in the Jimmy Sabatino episode when the Concerned Citizen describes some "FBI reports" describing Sabatino's accomplishments that were likely forged by Sabatino himself:
      Concerned Citizen: The reports detailed how [Sabatino] had launched the careers of Puff Daddy, Biggie Smalls, Method Man from the Wu-Tang Clan and Mark Wahlberg? [soundtrack cuts out] What? Okay, one of these things is not like the others, but I digress note .
    • In the same episode, we have the results of Jimmy Sabatino's request to serve the rest of his sentence in solitary confinement:
      Concerned Citizen: The Supermax Federal Penitentiary in Colorado is home to the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski; the Boston Marathon bomber; Terry Nichols, a conspirator in the Oklahoma City bombing... and now Jimmy Sabatino, a guy who likes to rip off hotels.
  • Like Father, Unlike Son: Arrow Trucking founder Jim Pielsticker was a Benevolent Boss and masterful businessman who built his company into a multi-million-dollar behemoth. His son Doug was a spoiled, lazy, narcissistic asshole who didn't give a crap about the company and quickly drove it into the ground once he was given control, which ended with Arrow being liquidated and all of its employees put out of work.
  • Littlest Cancer Patient:
    • Patreon-exclusive episode "The Neighbor" profiles a scammer who actually preys on a 10 year old girl with cancer and her family.
    • The prologue to "The Treatment" profiles a 13-year-old boy who contracted AIDS through his hemophilia medication and was viciously demonized by the rest of his town (who assume he got it because of homosexual activity) because of it.
  • Loophole Abuse:
    • Budd Dwyer timed his public suicide to occur the day before his sentencing, when he was technically still Pennsylvania's state treasurer, meaning that his family remained entitled to his pension and survivor benefits.
    • Michael Larson memorized and exploited the patterns he noticed on the game board of Press Your Luck in order to win $110,237 in cash and prizes, and got away with it because CBS admitted that his methods didn't actually break the rules of the game.
    • Despite the ratification of the International Code on the Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes in response to the 1977 Nestle boycott, Nestle and other milk formula companies found ways to get around the Code or ignore it entirely.
    • Diaborachloropropane (DBCP) has been banned for use as a pesticide in the United States. But that hasn't stopped banana companies like Chiquita and Dole from using the pesticide on their plantations in Central America, where DBCP hasn't been banned (no doubt because of the stranglehold banana companies have on such governments).
  • Make It Look Like an Accident: The death of Karen Silkwood. Although she was technically intoxicated (the amount of medically-prescribed sedative in her blood was nearly twice needed for sleep), the Kerr-McGee documents she'd been carrying were missing and there was damage to the back of her car, indicating that she was hit from behind and forced off the road.
  • Mayor Pain: Kwame Kilpatrick. It was bad enough that Kilpatrick made a show of himself riding around in expensive clothes and cars while he was forcing the city of Detroit to slash its budget. But then he hosted a debaucherous party at the Manoogian Mansionnote  where his wife allegedly assaulted an exotic dancer who gave him a lap dance. Then said exotic dancer turned up dead in a drive-by shooting. Then then Kilpatrick fired two cops investigating the party and the murder. Then then then Kilpatrick got caught lying under oath about having an affair with his female chief-of-staff and using city-owned phones to exchange intimate communications. Then then then then, after Kilpatrick's resignation, he, his father, and several associates were hit with 38 federal indictments for corruption, resulting in a 28-year prison sentence.
  • Mega-Corp: The amount of control United Fruit/Chiquita has yielded over Central America in general, and Guatemala in particular, is truly staggering. Not only did the company monopolize transportation and telecommunications in Guatemala, and not only could it threaten the government of Guatemala, but it had enough pull in Washington to successfully lobby for a CIA-backed coup against Guatemala's duly elected leader when he moved to redistribute the company's land. This is the kind of stuff that would make Omni Consumer Products take notes.
  • Misery Builds Character: Mother Teresa took this trope to extremes, to say the least. Convinced that the poor should suffer like Christ had suffered on the cross, Teresa saw to it that her mission not actually alleviate the physical suffering of the patients brought to her nuns' care; that they were treated in spartan, unhygenic conditions; and that they be refused basic amenities such as visits from relatives. All while insisting that this was God's design.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Roger Tuttle, A.H. Robins' internal lawyer, was unceremoniously dismissed after losing the first Dalkon Shield civil suit. Tuttle returned the favor by turning whistleblower and testifying that the company destroyed documents related to the Shield's side effects.
  • Mock Millionaire:
    • Anna Sorokin, aka Anna Delvey, tried to pass herself off as rich heiress. By creating the impression of being rich, she scammed wealthy business acquaintances and several hotels of $275,000.
    • Simon Leviev passed himself off as the equally rich son of Israeli diamond magnate Lev Avnerovich Leviev in order to scam multiple women on Tinder out of their money, going so far as enlisting an entire team of people to act as his entourage and aid in his facade.
    • Anthony Gignac spent over three decades (apart from the occasional exposure and prison sentence) living the high life by impersonating a member of the Saudi royal family.
  • Momma's Boy: Despite the hell she put him through as a child, Colton Harris Moore cares enough about his mother that he tries to raise money to have her cryogenically frozen when she's dying from cancer.
  • Nepotism: Doug Pielsticker was given control of Arrow Trucking simply because he was the founder's son, despite it being no secret that he is a lazy stooge who never had an interest in taking over the company before his father died. After Doug takes over, he fires most of the old-guard executives and replaces them with friends and personal acquaintances who have zero experience in the trucking industry.
  • Name's the Same: In-Universe in "The Pope". Both the introductory segment and the main story concern Kentucky politicians named Dan Johnson (a Democrat and a Republican respectively) who disgraced themselves with sexual misconduct.
  • Near-Death Experience: The prelude of "The Saint" tells the story of Alex Malarkey, a six-year-old car crash victim who gave a vivid description of visiting Heaven and talking to Jesus and God. The bestselling book based on Alex's story, The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven, spawned a cottage industry of similar books giving similar accounts of visions of the afterlife. Then Alex, now a grown adult, admitted to making up the entire story for attention.
  • Never My Fault:
    • The A.H. Robins Company tried to shift the blame for the Dalkon Shield fiasco to the women using the product, suggesting multiple sex partners and "poor hygiene" were what really caused the Shield's negative side effects. The Shield's inventor, Dr. Hugh Davis, claimed that he and his device were being targeted by a smear campaign from commercial competitors.
    • Jered Threatin's reaction when his lies are exposed is to insist that everyone else is to blame, and to claim that his disastrous tour was really performance art.
    • Kate McClure and her boyfriend Mark D'Amico angrily blame each other for their GoFundMe fraud going FUBAR, as evidenced by audio Kate is collecting to backstab Mark.
    • Coal executive Robert E. Murray spends a great deal of time and effort trying to convince the media that an earthquake was the cause of the Carroll Canyon disaster, when seismological evidence pointed to his own company's dangerous "retreat mining" practice as the cause of the mine collapse.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • A Patreon exclusive bonus episode profiles the Osborne Reef, which was an attempt to recycle used tires for an artificial coral reef. Despite it not actually being a scam (as far as anyone knows), the tire reef not only failed, it created an environmental disaster.
    • Happens twice in "The Octopus". First, Juan Dominguez forces random people to perjure themselves in order to win his case against Dole, which leads to the verdict being vacated and the strong possibility that any similar lawsuits against the company will never be heard again. Then, reporter Mike Gallagher of the Cincinnati Inquirer illegally hacks into Chiquita's records to gather incriminating evidence for his investigative articles, only for the articles to be retracted and their allegations forgotten when he is found out.
    • Another Patreon-bonus episode, "The Sweepstakes", is about a promotional contest Pepsi held in the Phillipines. While they are only debatably heroic, the contest was a success and entirely legitmitate...but then Pepsi accidentally announced the wrong winning number one evening. A wrong number that eighty thousand people had. Whoops.
    • "The Space Program". NASA genuinely wanted to portray space travel positively and encourage a generation of children to be interested in it, which is why they tried to send a teacher to space. But they also wanted it done cheaply, and cared more about image than safety. End result? The Challenger disaster.
    • Mother Teresa may have genuinely wanted to help the impoverished citizens of Calcutta, but her rigid adherence to a religious ideology which emphasized Misery Builds Character not only led to her efforts having no appreciable positive impact on Calcutta's poor, but made their hardships exponentially worse.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Johnny Bobbitt, Jr. was a homeless veteran living on the streets of Philadelphia who spent his last $20 to help a stranded motorist, Kate McClure, get a can of gas. As a supposed gesture of gratitude, Kate and her boyfriend, Mark D'Amico, started a GoFundMe fundraiser for the supposed purpose of helping Johnny get his life back on track, raising thousands of dollars. Unfortunately for Johnny, Kate and Mark spent most of that money on extravagant trips and gambling sprees. Subverted in that it later turned out that the gas story was a ruse all along and Johnny was in on the couple's scheme to defraud GoFundMe, which fell apart after all three conspirators got greedy and turned on each other.
  • No Honor Among Thieves:
    • The conspiracy between Mark D'Amico, Kate McClure, and Johnny Bobbitt, Jr. to rip off GoFundMe falls apart because two of the participants try to cheat the third, and all are quick to betray each other when their plans go further downhill.
    • After being disgraced for betting on games he was refereeing, Tim Donaghy decided to take the NBA down with him by accusing the league of using referees to fix basketball games (including the controversial Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals). His claims were never proven, however.
  • No OSHA Compliance:
    • Union Carbide's Bhopal plant had a history of fatal accidents, poor safety standards, and maintenance problems in the years leading up to the disastrous gas leak which killed thousands. Carbide was warned in a memo that conditions at the plant were bound to cause a massive leak, but the memo was ignored.
    • Safety standards were practically non-existent at Kerr-McGee's uranium processing plant in Oklahoma, leading to workers being routinely exposed to deadly amounts of radioactive material. Kerr-McGee was also in the habit of manufacturing (and covering up) faulty control rods for nuclear reactors, which if you have seen Chernobyl you'd know could have led to horrifyingly catastrophic consequences. Then there's the fact that security was so lax at the Kerr-McGee plant that mobsters managed to steal plutonium and tried to sell it on the black market.
    • Workers at the sites for FIFA's 2022 Qatar World Cup are foreign migrants who have been shanghaied by the government into virtual slave labor, performing excessively long shifts in dangerous conditions in 120-degree heat.
    • Murray Energy was cited 200 times by government regulators for ignoring safety rules, which led to a whole history of accidents leading up to the 2007 Carroll Canyon collapse.
    • Chiquita and Dole do not inject DBCP directly into the roots of their banana plants as instructed, but instead spray them from the air where their toxicity causes their field workers to go sterile.
    • One of the major findings of the Rogers Commission was that flight safety became increasingly de-prioritized within NASA as they became increasingly more preoccupied with getting good press for the flagging space program. This led to both NASA and Morton-Thiokol insisting that the ill-fated Challenger launch (which had become a media event thanks to the addition of teacher Christa McAuliffe in the shuttle crew) proceed as planned, despite repeated warnings about the O-ring defect in the shuttle's rocket boosters.
    • In his testimony before Congress after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, BP CEO Tony Hayward tries to claim that his company's commitment to safety has improved under his tenure. He is immediately confronted by a senator who brings up BP's lengthy history of citations for safety violations, which happened even after he was appointed CEO.
  • No Such Thing as Bad Publicity:
    • Said word for word in "The Mogul", after the disastrous Jordache blimp crash did ultimately increase awareness for its namesake clothing brand.
    • After the Threatin scandal, the "band" rocketed up the Spotify charts. One of the venues that Jered Threatin scammed even invited him back since in their words, "Last time there was no one to promote him—because he had no fans at the time. Now he does."
  • "Not Making This Up" Disclaimer: On the trial of Charles Ingram, who was accused of cheating on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? via strategic coughing from his wife and a co-conspirator who knew the answers:
    Concerned Citizen: The trial lasted four weeks in total and lasted an extra day because of uncontrollable coughing from the jury. No, seriously.

    O - Z 
  • Off on a Technicality:
    • No one responsible for the Dalkon Shield fiasco ever faced criminal charges, because back in The '70s intrauterine devices like the Dalkon Shield were not subject to FDA regulations.
    • Could have happened if disgraced judge Mark Ciavarella got a new trial, as it was found that he was originally convicted for crimes where the five-year statute of limitations had run out, but a judge upheld his sentence in 2020.
    • The creators of Lapland New Forest ended up being released halfway through their prison sentence after it was discovered that during the trial a juror had repeatedly texted her husband in the public gallery, which prompted an immediate mistrial.
    • Chiquita and Dole are able to walk away from any accountability for their crimes, despite damning evidence, because their opponents broke the law themselves to either gather or fabricate that evidence.
  • Pater Familicide: "The Grant" covers Scott Westerhuis and Steve Stueppel, two embezzlers who killed their families in murder-suicides to escape justice.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Marcia Sohl's doctor receives a message, seemingly from her, threatening to commit suicide and hurling obscenities at the doctor's wife. The doctor immediately becomes suspicious, in that while Marcia used salty language, she was on good terms with his wife and had never attacked her this way before. It turns out the message was written by Deputy Frankie Bybee as part of his plan to have Marcia committed so he could ransack her house and steal her valuables.
  • Spotting the Thread: Downplayed. While Jeffrey Soffer was already somewhat suspicious of Anthony Gignac, the killing blow came when the former witnessed the latter ordering prosciutto at a restaurant, something a Muslim Saudi Prince would never do.
  • Pedophile Priest:
    • Jimmy Swaggart's mistress accuses him of showing inappropriate interest in her pre-pubescent daughter.
    • In his capacity as pastor of the Heart of Fire Church, Dan Johnson was accused of raping an underage girl who attended his church and was friends with his children.
  • Pet the Dog: Jerome Jacobson, the mastermind behind the McDonald's Monopoly fraud, found himself with an unusable $1 million-winning game piece and decided to put it to good use by anonymously donating it to the St. Jude Children's Hospital. That money ended up being the only proceeds that weren't returned (at the restaurant chain's request) when the fraud was discovered.
  • Phony Psychic: Miss Cleo and Sylvia Browne.
  • Playing Sick:
    • Belle Gibson is a wellness guru who claimed to have healed herself of pervasive cancer with an all-vegan diet, only for it to be found out that she lied about having cancer (among many other things).
    • Witnesses for the plaintiffs in the pesticide exposure case against Dole are made by an Amoral Attorney to falsely testify that they themselves have been poisoned by the pesticide in question.
  • Playing the Victim Card:
    • Jim Bakker framed his legal troubles with the FCC as a defense against an anti-Christian government agenda. Also, when Jessica Hahn accused him of rape, Bakker (according to Jerry Falwell) tried to claim that she raped him.
    • Kwame Kilpatrick, the black mayor of the majority-black city of Detroit, blamed his corruption scandals on a smear campaign by white reporters and police.
    • Kerr-McGee insists that Karen Silkwood poisoned herself with plutonium to make the company look bad, as opposed to the horrendous safety practices at the plant where she worked.
  • Plot-Triggering Death: The shooting death of exotic dancer Tamara Greene — who allegedly gave a lapdance to Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick at the Manoogian Mansion party and was then assaulted by Kilpatrick's wife — serves as the Citizen's prelude to his episode covering Kilpatrick's notorious tenure.
  • Poisonous Friend:
    • Deputy Frankie Bybee seemingly befriended depressed retiree Marcia Sohl, taking her to the hospital during a health emergency and taking her out with his family. This was all a ruse to win Marcia's trust before Bybee began pressuring her to give up her financial information. Things went downhill for Marcia from there.
    • Samantha Azzopardi, an Australian serial scammer, befriended an American backpacker named Emily Baumberger and persuaded her that she was a kidnapped Swedish princess who was on the run. Samantha dragged Emily into her fantasy, which ended with Emily landing in jail and being deported from Australia.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Dan Johnson and his Heart of Fire Church were infamous for their casual racism and Islamophobia.
  • Ponzi:
    • Allen Stanford's scheme gave him de-facto control over Antigua and grossed over $8 billion from swindling clients from the U.S. and Latin America. His "bank" profited from its customers through its CDsnote , meaning people placed their life savings at the mercy of Stanford and his free-spending ways. While he spent some money building Antigua's infrastructure and donating to charities like St. Judes, most of the money was spent lobbying Republican and Democratic politicians as well as wining, dining, and ferrying himself on private jets and yachts. It was not until 2009 when the SEC raided Stanford's Houston headquarters and ordered his arrest.
  • Pop Culture Osmosis: Stella Liebeck's injuries from excessively hot McDonald's coffee were very real, and significantly affected her quality of life until the day she died. But the media misrepresented Liebeck's lawsuit against McDonald's as an example of frivilous litigation, and Republicans used the resulting outrage against Liebeck to win control of Congress on a platform of tort reform.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    • One of the lawyers in the deposition of Roger Tuttle, who admits that the A.H. Robins Company destroyed evidence related to the Dalkon Shield, can be overheard on tape muttering, "Can you fucking believe this?"
    • When Christine Beatty, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's chief of staff, was pulled over by police on a routine traffic stop, she asked them, "Do you know who the fuck I am?"
  • Psychopathic Man Child:
    • Joe Francis, of the former Girls Gone Wild franchise, is depicted as a scumbag who exploits vulnerable young girls and a possible rapist. He also responds to any criticism by constantly calling his critics "retarded", making over-the-top threats of violence, and proclaiming that he has renowned good looks and sexual prowess.
    • Jered Threatin is an attention-obsessed narcissist who went out of his way to fraudulently build the social media presence of his band. In ACC's eyes, Threatin's music has "lyrics that resemble the deep thoughts of a 13 year old." During the tour, he threatined to kick out his bandmates if they dared to even get breakfast at the hotel's lobby without his permission. Later, when he realized the bandmates had read press reports about his fabricated popularity, he blamed everyone but himself for the tour's failure.
  • Re-Cut: The Bonus episode about the Monopoly McDonald's scam was re-recorded with new information and released to all viewers,in part due to the increased attention the scandal has gotten.
  • Red Herring: According to a Deathbed Confession by a co-conspirator, Richard Bailey had nothing to do with the disappearance and murder of Helen Brach. Bailey is currently challenging his 30-year prison sentence for Brach's murder.
  • Red Scare: United Fruit colluded with the U.S. government to villify the democratically elected government of Guatemala as communist lapdogs of the Kremlin, setting up the pretext for a CIA-backed coup that forced the head of state and his wife into exile.
  • Refuge in Audacity: American con artist Jimmy Sabatino found himself in a UK prison and decided to have himself deported because he didn't like the food. What better way to get it done by phoning in a death threat to the President of the United States? Subverted in that the scheme backfired, and Jimmy ended up doing more time for that stunt before his deportation from the UK.
  • Running Gag: In the episode covering Charles Ingram, the Citizen repeatedly pokes fun at the hideous shirt Ingram wore during his infamous appearance on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?.
  • Sanity Slippage: Dr. Hugh Davis, the inventor of the faulty Dalkon Shield intrauterine device, succumbs to paranoia and is committed to a psychiatric ward for ten years following his professional disgrace.
  • Screw The Rules, They Have Money!: Mother Teresa's attitude towards her wealthy friends/benefactors. While Teresa expected her impoverished wards to suffer endlessly for the cause of Christ, she didn't expect the same for celebrities who supported. She publicly opposed the concept of divorce, yet supported Princess Diana in her split from Prince Charles.
  • Sickening Slaughterhouse: Agriprocessors was a kosher slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa where, as shown in an undercover video taken by PETA, cattle regularly had their throats violently ripped out while fully conscious before being left to die in pools of their own blood. Furthermore, the workforce consisted primarily of undocumented, underpaid, and often underage immigrants, forced to work in deplorable conditions in order to receive their meager pay. Noted animal welfare expert Temple Grandin called their procedures an "atrocious abomination" and worse than anything she had seen in any kosher abattoir, while a reporter for the Jewish Daily Forward compared the situation at Agriprocessors to something out of The Jungle.
  • Slave to PR: One of the major findings of the Rogers Commission report was that NASA's commitment to flight safety had gradually eroded in the decades since Apollo 11, with its focus on public perception overriding any negative issues affecting its space flights. This led to NASA pressing ahead with the doomed Challenger launch despite repeated warnings about the flaws in their O-ring seal design.
  • Sleazy Politician: Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick's most publicized scandals involved a lap-dance with an exotic dancer at the Manoogian Mansion and an extramarital affair with his female chief of staff.
  • Slut-Shaming: The legal strategy of the A.H. Robins Company against plaintiffs in the Dalkon Shield lawsuits amounted to this.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Both of the music acts covered in "The Tour". The Milli Vanilli duo bragged to interviewers that they were greater musicians than Paul McCartney, not long before it was revealed that they didn't actually perform the music credited to them. Jered Threatin shot interviews with himself in which he described his artistic process at droning, pretentious length; went to great lengths to make it appear he was more popular than he actually was; and blamed everyone but himself for the outcome his disastrous European tour.
  • Snake Oil Salesman: Or saleswoman, in Belle Gibson's case. Gibson built an app devoted to quack cancer treatments that was available on the Apple Watch before it was revealed that she faked having cancer.
  • Surprisingly Happy Ending: As the Simon Leviev episode draws to a close, the Concerned Citizen warns that Leviev is still at large and urges the listeners to look at his photo on the podcast website so they can be on the lookout for him...which is then followed by a clearly-later-edited-in "breaking news" segment where CC relates that mere days before the episode's release, Leviev was arrested in Athens and is facing several months of prison time and extradition to Israel, where he has further criminal charges awaiting him.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance:
    • The Love Canal episode opens with a jaunty advertising jingle for Dial soap, specifically extolling its hexachlorophene ingredient. The Citizen then tells us hexachlorophene was later banned in consumer products for being carcinogenic.
    • The famously catchy jingle for Chiquita is heard in "The Octopus", which belies all of the horrifying information about the company's actions.
  • Take That!: The Citizen casually calls conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham a "human garbage can" in the prelude of "The Saint".
  • That Syncing Feeling: The infamous record skipping incident during the MTV concert was what tipped the media off to what was really going on with Milli Vanilli.
  • Those Wacky Nazis:
    • Bayer AG, known to most people for producing aspirin, was deeply involved in the Nazi regime, profiting from Jewish slave labor, inventing the poison gas Zyklon B, contributing to the "research" of Josef Mengele, and conducting twisted experiments of their own on Jewish detainees loaned from Auschwitz. Bayer wouldn't formally acknowledge their role in the Holocaust until decades later.
    • NASA owes its early successes, including the Apollo missions, to Wernher von Braun, a former Nazi scientist brought to America who was absolved for his involvement in war crimes.
  • Throwing The Match: "The Referee" covers two instances of this in basketball:
    • In 1994, two players from Arizona State University took $20,000 from gamblers in exchange for shaving pointsnote  in four college basketball games. Both players were arrested, tried, and convicted of bribery and match fixing.note 
    • In 2007, the NBA was rocked when referee Tim Donaghy was found to have been betting on games he was officiating, and receiving money from The Mafia in exchange for point-shaving, for the previous two seasons. Donaghy denied unduly influencing games, though an analysis of his calls strongly pointed to him at least subconsciously skewing their outcomes. In turn, Donaghy accused the NBA of using referees to manipulate games in order to generate ticket sales and TV ratings, claiming that the league fixed the infamous Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals (Lakers vs. Kings) for exactly that reason.
  • Tragic AIDS Story: "The Treatment" begins with one, recounting the story of Indiana teenager Ryan White and how he was banned from his school and ostracized in his town after contracting the AIDS virus through his Factor VIII hemophilia medication.
  • Trauma Conga Line:
    • Pretty much Karen Silkwood's entire adult life: she was forced to abandon her children to escape a loveless marriage; was involved in a failed union strike at the Kerr-McGee uranium plant where she found work; was routinely exposed to radioactive material such as plutonium thanks to Kerr-McGee's shoddy safety procedures; had to be told by a union representative that the plutonium was carcinogenic, which Kerr-McGee never bothered to do; was eventually exposed to a dangerously high level of plutonium which resulted in a painful and humiliating decontamination process, in what was likely a deliberate attempt by someone at Kerr-McGee trying to silence her; faced unfounded accusations by Kerr-McGee that she poisoned herself to make the company look bad; and was finally mysteriously killed in a car accident just as she was about to hand over incriminating Kerr-McGee documents to a New York Times journalist.
    • Kenneth Johnson, one of the first victims of Pat Johnson's (no relation) rock-throwing spree. First, Kenneth sustains severe head injuries while driving along the Austin interstate when a rock flies through his windshield and hits him in the face, causing a car wreck. Kenneth never fully recovers, and his father dies while he is still going through grueling physical therapy. Even after Pat Johnson is sent to jail, it's still not over for Kenneth: he is forced to sue a friend over missing money from a GoFundMe drive meant for him.
    • Ryan White was born with hemophilia, which required him to regularly take Factor VIII medication. Then, at age 13, Ryan contracted AIDS when his meds were tainted by the AIDS virus — practically a death sentence at a time when the virus wasn't yet treatable. Then Ryan's school refused to re-enroll him, discriminated against him after a court ordered them to let him attend, and looked the other way when he was bullied by other students. As if that wasn't enough, Ryan and his family were blackballed by the rest of the town and were forced to move away when someone fired a gun into their house. Although he was accepted at the new school where he attended, and became a cause celebre, Ryan still died from AIDS at age 18 just weeks before his high school graduation (lasting five years longer than doctors had assumed).
  • Troubled Production: In-Universe:
    • "The Tour": The 2018 European tour of the US indie rock band Threatin, fronted by Jered "Threatin" Eames, became known for concerts which had almost zero attendance, despite Jered assuring venues that the band had sold hundreds of tickets. As the band's story went viral, it was quickly revealed that Jered and his wife had set up phony record labels, production studios, management agencies, and booking companies; paid overseas click farms to give Jered thousands of "likes" on social media; and had failed to cover the living expenses for other members of the band (with a $300 food stipend quickly running out). Two members quit half-way through the tour when they realized what was going on, while a third was unable to afford a plane ticket home from the UK. Jered initially tried to pass off the disastrous tour as a piece of performance art before half-heartedly owning up to the fact it was a hoax.
    • "The Space Program": The lead-ups to the Soyuz 1 and Challenger disasters have heavy shades of this, with the issues which eventually led to the disasters having to do with chronically poor spacecraft design, weather delays, and incompetent management practices on the part of both the Soviet space program and NASA, respectively.
  • Tyrant Takes the Helm: One he takes over Arrow Trucking, Doug Pielsticker fires the more experienced executives and turns the company into his own personal playground.
  • The Unreveal: Despite her possible integral role in the scandals and ultimate downfall of Kwame Kilpatrick, Tamara Greene's drive-by murder has never been solved.
  • Vigilante Man: Joe Stack and Pat Johnson in "The Vigilante", although neither of them fit the trope as most people understand it; Joe was an increasingly angry tax protester while Pat spent his time harassing towing companies over minor infractions.
  • Villain with Good Publicity:
    • FIFA, Nestle, Chiquita, and Bayer are assumed by the public at large to be innocuous companies which produce popular goods. But they are (at best) amoral corporations who think nothing of breaking the law and destroying scores of lives if it serves their bottom line.
    • Senator Robert S. Kerr is still memorialized in Oklahoma despite being implicated in political corruption and founding a rogue energy company that very likely murdered a whistleblower.
    • Mother Teresa deliberately never did anything to actually alleviate the suffering of the poor in Calcutta, and actually compounded that suffering in inumerable ways, yet she still won every civilian award and commendation on the planet including the Nobel Peace Prize and Catholic sainthood.
  • Villainous Breakdown: After the Carroll Canyon disaster, mine owner Robert E. Murray begins holding a series of unhinged press conferences, ranting about political vendettas and insisting that the mine's collapse was caused by an earthquake, as criticism mounts over his company's practices and handling of the recovery effort.
  • Wounded Gazelle Gambit: Samantha Azzopardi begins her career as a scammer appearing in far-flung locations posing as a sexually abused/trafficked teenager in distress.
  • Wretched Hive: Luzerne County and the rest of northeastern Pennsylvania's coal country was notorious for corruption even before the "kids for cash" scandal broke.
  • Your Normal Is Our Taboo: The Citizen notes that Milli Vanilli's practice of using front men to perform to music done by the actual artists was a common practice in their native Europe, but what got them in trouble in U.S. civil court was the packaging on their album's American release exclusively attributing the music to Morvan and Pilatus.


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