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Clifford Irving, Howard Hughes prankster, has died at 87

By Associated Press

Published: 23:37 EST, 20 December 2017 | Updated: 23:42 EST, 20 December 2017

SARASOTA, Fla. (AP) – The prankster who wrote a phony autobiography of billionaire Howard Hughes and fooled a major publisher in 1971 has died. Clifford Irving was 87.

The New York Times reports Irving's wife, Julie Irving, confirmed that he died Tuesday at a hospice near his Sarasota home. She said he had been admitted there after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer about a week earlier.

Irving conned McGraw-Hill publishers into paying him a $765,000 advance for a 1971 book about the reclusive Hughes. His elaborate ruse became a nationwide sensation and was the subject of the 2006 movie "The Hoax," starring Richard Gere.

Irving served 17 months in federal prison for fraud after Hughes emerged to condemn the book as a fabrication.

The bogus autobiography wasn't published until 1999, when it was printed as a private edition.

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This report includes biographical material written by former AP staff writer Gary Kane.

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