In a story that could only happen in our current media saturated, social media crazed, 24/7 news atmosphere, a Brazilian man fooled established media outlets worldwide as well as 120,000 plus Instagram followers into thinking he was a United Nations war photographer for the past three years. After being exposed, he is supposedly "in Australia...spend(ing) a year in a van," and his identity still unknown.
This remarkable hoax was perpetrated by a man named Eduardo Martins (a pseudonym), a 32-year old from Sao Paolo, Brazil. "Martins" had a great story - leukemia survivor, surfer, and war photographer who had spent time documenting conflict in the Gaza Strip, Syria, and Iraq. Until he was caught, he had received significant exposure in major outlets and agencies including The Wall Street Journal, Al Jazeera, Getty, Zuma, and BBC Brazil. BBC Brazil's Natasha Ribeiro grew suspicious of "Martins" after trying to vet his story (though at this point, BBC Brazil had already published a lengthy profile on him, since retracted).
No one, among authorities and non-governmental organizations in Syria or Iraq, has ever seen or heard about Eduardo Martins."
Ignacio Aronovich, a photographer from Sao Paulo conducted further detective work and realized that "Martins" had stolen and horizontally flipped various images from photographer Daniel C. Britt; by doing this, he was able to evade detection through Google reverse image searches.
"Martins" also stole the identity of 32-year-old British man Max Hepworth-Povey, passing off Povey's likeness as his own.After being contacted by war photographer and journalist Fernando Costa Netto inquiring about growing suspicions that "Martins" wasn't who he said he was, "Martins" immediately deleted all of his online accounts and wrote the following to Netto:
I'm in Australia. I've made the decision to spend a year in a van. I'll delete everything online including internet. I want to be in peace, we'll see each other when I get back. For anything write me at email@example.com. A big hug. I'm going to delete the zap. God be with you. A hug.
At the moment, there are no leads on who this con artist is or what his current whereabouts are. It's very possible he may never be identified - the bigger question is what are the lessons that can be learned to prevent this sort of fraud from occurring again?