One con man, whose name we all recognize, is Charles Ponzi (1882-1949). Historically considered to be one of the most adept swindlers, his scheme paid early investors returns from the money collected from later investors. The Ponzi scheme is named after him. It can be a profitable scheme for a crook, until the rollercoaster crashes to the end of its run…just as it did with Bernie Madoff.
Madoff ‘s Ponzi scheme eventually defrauded investors of an estimated 18 billion dollars. In June, 2009, he was sentenced to 150 years in prison for his brand of white dollar crime. His sons testified against him telling authorities that their father confessed to running his asset management firm as a massive Ponzi scheme, and quoted him as describing it as “one big lie”.
Another notable current day con artist is Frank Abagnale. The movie “Catch Me if You Can” portrayed his life of stolen identities wherein he portrayed himself as eight separate scam identities including a pilot, attorney, and pediatrician where his self-serving ruse almost cost the life of a sick child. He was prosecuted and incarcerated in multiple countries before serving just five years in the US prison system. Since his release, he works as a consultant to the FBI and has made a living lecturing on identity theft.
When large-scale tragedies occur, the con artists are quickly on the trail. Posing as a relative of one of the young victims in the Sandy Hook School shooting, a 37-year-old woman solicited money for the child’s funeral fund. She was arrested by the FBI for profiting from this con.
Con Artists often get what they want, be it money, prestige or power. If you are their target, they have no conscience about taking whatever they can from you. Yet, while many of them are quite successful, we must not forget the innocent victims they leave in their wake.