In 1820 Gregor Gregorio MacGregor (the name so nice you say it thrice!) returned to England from South America claiming to be the prince of Poyais, an independent island in the Bay of Honduras. Of course, being an entry on this list means that Poyais doesn't exist, but colonial greed turned several English merchants and settlers into very stupid people. After making a small fortune off of investors MacGregor sent two ships with some two-hundred settlers to Poyais. When they arrived they found a massive jungle, a few American hermits and a wide variety of fatal tropical diseases. To put that in contrast with MacGregor's claims, Potais was supposedly a land of untouched gold mines free of natives and diseases with a strong pre-established English settlement. Somebody somewhere owed them a refund. They were eventually rescued with only sixty total survivors. Meanwhile, MacGregor continued the scam across Europe for the remainder of his life.
Sale of the Eiffel Tower
In 1925, Victor Lustig presented six metal dealers with the opportunity of a lifetime: they were offered a chance to buy the Eiffel Tower. Originally installed in 1889 Paris Exposition, the Eiffel tower wasn't intended to remain as permanent structure and after World War I was becoming very expensive to maintain. The eventual buyer was Andre Poisson, who felt he could finally become a big-wig in the scrap dealing world if he owned pieces of the Eiffel tower. Lustig swore him to secrecy until after he fond a way to publicly announce the tower's sale. Poisson agreed, but not before handing Lustig a briefcase full of money. By the time Lustig skipped the country, Poisson put two and two together and realized he'd been duped but was too embarrassed by his loss to go to the police. In fact, Lustig was never arrested for posing as a government official or trying to sell a French landmark. When he was eventually arrested in 1935 it was for an unrelated counterfeiting scheme. He attempted to sell the tower a second time but was unsuccessful, a failure that surely haunted him to his money-filled grave.
Francis Drake's Estate
In 1915 Iowa farmer and incredibly gullible man Oscar Hartzell was conned out of six-thousand dollars by gentlemen claiming they could invest the money in Sir Francis Drake's fortune. Once he realized he'd been had, Hartzell decided to turn the other cheek and rob several other innocent folks out of their life savings. For his scam he contacted people in Iowa with the surname Drake, claimed to be a distant relative and informed them that the British government was withholding Francis Drake's estate. With a small investment Hartzell promised to sue the British and turn every one dollar invested into five-hundred. Having met booming success locally, he soon expanded beyond Iowa and soon had thousands of investors in America. In 1925 Hartzell moved to London to live the Miller High Life and told his investors he was in negotiations for the estate but needed more money. They complied even after the British Home Office informed the American Embassy that the estate had been claimed by Drake's wife. When the stock market crashed in 1929 Hartzell received more investments. It wasn't until 1933 that he was deported (he was able to avoid arrest because he hadn't broken any British laws, but several of his agents in America confessed) and found guilty. Oddly enough, his legal defense was funded by more donations and even after he was found guilty of fraud in a court of law people continued to invest.
- - De Grote Donorshow: http://www.smh.com.au/ffximage/2007/06/02/leoniegebbink_narrowweb__300x414,0.jpg
- - Jumping the Brooklyn Bridge: http://api.ning.com/files/J4ucVNWbX0dMD7DjYr*6L66U9Xy5NMdbbZ1CwK-Itz2gnBlzpzOv*uI7DH5Juq*2GqtZL8I1zpPTupzd*F2v8y-DZWgtHX2t/BrooklynBridgeSunsetHDRSML.jpg
- - Cardiff Giant: http://www.uctaa.net/articles/meds2/images/irish.jpg
- - 54 Berners Street Hoax: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Theodore_Edward_Hook.jpg
- - Poyais: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d1/Gregorio_MacGregor.jpg
- - Sale of the Eiffel Tower: http://www.wayfaring.info/wp-content/uploads/2006/11/france-eiffel-tower.jpg
- - Francis Drake's Estate: http://worldheroes.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/captain-revenge.jpg