In 1921, Charles Ponzi began duping New Englanders with a bogus postage stamp investment scheme. He told them that by buying and selling foreign stamps -- yes, stamps -- they could see 40 percent returns. Instead, he simply took their money, and doled out a little cash to early investors to make the scam seem legit.
At the time, he never could have imagined how popular his trick would be. Or how, in South Florida nearly a century later, it would become the fraud de jour.
So in honor of Ponzi, here's a salute to some of the headline-grabbing schemes
that have collapsed since December 2008:
1. Bernie Madoff, the infamous Palm Beacher, ran one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history, involving an estimated $64.8 billion.
2. Scott Rothstein, the Fort Lauderdale attorney, allegedly ran a $1 billlion investment scheme.
3. Joel Steinger, whose Fort Lauderdale company Mutual Benefits Corp. exploited AIDS patients to run a life insurance scam.
4.George Theodule, formerly of Wellington, targeted fellow Haitian-Americans in a $23.4 million investment scam.
5. Abner Alabre, Brian Taglieri, and Ronnie Bass Jr., of Miramar and Jupiter, allegedly defrauded hundreds of Haitian-American investors.