Lest we modern day citizens make the error of believing financial scams started with Enron and Bernie Madoff, let’s turn back the clock to those thrilling days of yesteryear and fondly remember some other great scam artists of human history.
Empire for Sale
Back in 193 A.D., a special army called the Praetorian Guard (allegedly loyal to the emperor) instead killed him and offered his job to the highest bidder in the Roman Empire. The position was quickly sold for what amounts to about a billion dollars in today’s money. Unfortunately, the new emperor was never officially recognized, found himself quickly deposed, and the guards running the scam were executed. Be glad you weren’t running your little financial scam back then, Mr. Madoff.
The REAL Louisiana Purchase
When Scottish financial whiz, John Law, started a company to develop the Louisiana territory, he focused his marketing to investors (including the French government) on the possibilities rather than the reality. He touted mountains of silver and gold and left the part that most of the area was a godforsaken swampland. Doh! When investors figured out the rea
l score, Law was nearly lynched, only escaping swift justice by disguising himself as a beggar.
Queen or Prostitute?
Apparently, there’s nothing in this world more gullible than a horny priest. In 1785, Cardinal Prince de Rohan thought he was having an affair with Queen Marie Antoinette. He even went so far as to allow the woman to purchase a diamond necklace worth millions on her own credit. Unfortunately, de Rohan was involved with a common prostitute hired (and dressed up like the queen) by his former mistress, who REALLY wanted the necklace for herself. When the financial scam was discovered, the ex-mistress was stripped naked in public and branded with an iron. Yeeouch! And she didn’t get the necklace either.
Compared to these true scammers of history, Mr. Madoff was a piker. Until you’ve been branded or executed for your financial misdeeds, you ain’t nothin’! Come talk to us when you’ve done something more impressive than defrauding a bunch of celebrities who chose to believe the sort of pie-in-the-sky tripe you were selling.
The American Monetary Association Team
Flickr / Rennett Stowe