The history of Ponzi and his infamous scheme

With the arrest last week of Bernard L. Madoff for what amounts to a $50 billion Ponzi scheme, Mental Floss asks the obvious question: just who is this Ponzi, and what exactly was his scheme?

His name was Charles Ponzi, pictured at right, and Mental Floss notes,

Anyone can work a simple swindle, but you have to be a special kind of con man to have your name become synonymous with “fraud.”

Read the article, it’s a great story. At one point near the end, when his great con was unraveling, Ponzi hired a PR flak named William McMasters,

…but the PR man saw through Ponzi’s lies and renounced his client in the press. James Walsh reprints part of McMasters’ slam of Ponzi in his book, You Can’t Cheat An Honest Man. Of Ponzi, McMasters said, “The man is a financial idiot. He can hardly add…He sits with his feet on the desk smoking expensive cigars in a diamond holder and talking complete gibberish about postal coupons.”

Certainly an apt symbol of our own troubled, fraudulent times.

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