The Story of One Private Investigator Whose Career Spanned Decades

BuzzFeed profiles Tom Corbally, whose life is mostly a secret.

September 18, 2017 5:00 am

Most people haven’t heard the name Tom Corbally, and that’s because no one ever learned everything about the private investigator, con man and former spy who made his living crisscrossing the globe for decades.

BuzzFeed recently dug into Corbally’s life which has “stuff that doesn’t make it into the textbooks.”

Over the course of his career, Corbally used many identities to befriend and work for, and against, some of the most famous people of his time — presidents, corporate bosses, prostitutes, movie stars, and more. He gathered intelligence for the US government, befriend British aristocracy and US political elite, and helped business moguls get out of tricky transactions.

He was a rule breaker from the very beginning. Born in 1921 to Harry and Loretta Moore Corbally, Tom lived a bit of a real-life Catch Me If You Can. When he was a teen, Tom would stow away on cruise liners. Records show he was caught three times, BuzzFeed writes.

Tom Corbally
Tom Corbally (LOOK magazine/

During World War II, Corbally joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. But that didn’t last long, because he was “rebellious, immature, and apparently entirely unsuited for the discipline of military life,” BuzzFeed writes.

After that, it gets murky, but BuzzFeed discovered that Corbally popped up in Germany as an actual spy. After that, his life is mysterious, filled with exotic travel, endless connections, and women. Tom Corbally seemed to know everyone. He was married three times, all brief (though his fourth marriage lasted until his death).

As a private investigator, Corbally conducted investigations into some of the most high-profile corporate cases in the era. He also worked with, or involved himself in, scandals, including the intercontinental “Profumo affair,” which involved members of the British political elite and maybe even JFK.

Much is still unknown about Tom Corbally’s life, who died at 83 years old on April 15, 2004. At the time, he was being investigated by the FBI. He was never indicted. His wife, Renee, found that he had left some things in a safe-deposit box in London. When it was opened, there were three things inside: a packet of coffee creamer, a fake British passport with his picture and phony name, and a key. That key, BuzzFeed writes, is still a mystery.

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