charles ponzi

Ponzi: Bettmann Archive/Getty. Stamp: Bridgeman Images.

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No Money, More Problems

Dateline: Boston, July 1920. Charles Ponzi (yes, that one—Bernie Madoff's spiritual crookfather) swindles unsuspecting investors out of millions in a scam involving international prepaid postal stamps. Ponzi—we're thinking Robert Downey Jr.—even has the press charmed, with the Boston Post publishing a front-page profile titled "Doubles the Money Within Three Months." That is, until the con man's own publicist reveals to the Post his staggering debt, and the paper finds a previous arrest for check fraud. By August, its reporting has paved the way to Ponzi's arrest.