When you think of someone who best fits the description of “con man,” a few names probably come to mind.

Maybe Charles Ponzi, the Italian immigrant who almost 100 years ago attracted new investors to pay off his existing ones, instead of using profits from legitimate investments. More recent examples include stock market shyster Bernie Madoff and infomerical king Kevin Trudeau.

But believe it or not, recent revelations about the past dealings of a New York political activist may trump all of these previous “Kings of Con.”

FBI records obtained by The Smoking Gun revealed that the “Reverend” Al Sharpton was a confidential informant for the government. He lived a double life and gained the confidence of the most notorious criminals in New York and around the world.

Like almost every other FBI informant, Sharpton was only a source of information. The scope of his cooperation didn’t include testifying on a witness stand or surfacing publicly as an informant.

He was able to gather information for the government from ex-convicts, extortionists and mob henchmen. Sharpton secretly recorded some of his meetings sand helped the government successfully target powerful members of the Mafia, with nicknames like Benny Eggs, Baldy Dom, Chin, Corky and Fritzy.

Reverend Al was so good at gaining the confidence of a Gambino family crime figure that he openly discussed a wide variety of mob business during ten wired face-to-face meetings. The conversation ranged from shylocking and extortions… to death threats and the sanity of Genovese family boss Vincent “Chin” Gigante.

Believe it or not, this wasn’t the biggest con that Sharpton pulled off…

He also appeared to work as a double agent in state and national political campaigns. Reverend Al’s public image is the champion of downtrodden African-Americans and promoter of liberal and Democratic causes.

However, reporter Doug Ireland exposed Sharpton’s real behind-the-scenes political activities back in 2004 which supported Republican candidates and attacked Democrats.

Rev. Al has a long and sordid history of posing as the champion of the have-nots, while renting himself out to the greedy have-everythings, which predates his ’04 GOP-funded presidential campaign. In 1986, he endorsed N.Y. Senator Al D’Amato for re-election — although D’Amato, a conservative Republican pit bull, was anathema to more issues-attuned black leaders.

In 1994, he helped dampen down the black vote for Governor Mario Cuomo by making a media-hyped appearance with successful conservative Republican candidate George Pataki just days before the election. In the 2001 New York mayoral campaign, he connived with GOP billionaire Michael Bloomberg in the defeat of the Democratic candidate, Mark Green.

Now, in his current presidential campaign, Sharpton has been revealed as a wholly owned Republican subsidiary. Sharpton has been used by Republican operatives to discredit real contenders for the Democratic nomination… veteran (Village) Voice investigative reporter Wayne Barrett and his team unveiled the malevolent forces keeping Sharpton’s campaign alive:

Roger Stone, the longtime Republican dirty-tricks operative who led the mob that shut down the Miami–Dade County recount and helped make George Bush president in 2000, is financing, staffing, and orchestrating the presidential campaign of Rev. Al Sharpton.

It’s a matter of opinion – and which side of the political fence you’re on – if certain tactics are “dirty tricks” or “good strategy.” Given these government and political findings, it’s clear that Al Sharpton has been able to fool a lot of people most of the time. Because of this decades-long ability to deceive, the “Reverend” has my vote for the Best Con Man of All-Time.