EMPIRE OF DECEPTION : THE INCREDIBLE STORY OF A MASTER SWINDLER WHO SEDUCED A CITY AND CAPTIVATED THE NATION
by Dean Jobb
Chicago in the 1920s was the place to make easy money. More people were rich than ever before. The economy was booming. It was a great city for a swindler to operate in.
Leo Koretz was a charming, personable lawyer who enticed both men and women to invest in nonexistent entities: timberland and oil wells in Panama. Hundreds of people paid up ($30 million) including his entire family. He was like a Bernie Madoff except that he was a better liar and salesman and his fraud lasted much longer than Madoff's: for two decades. Leo worked by himself and took care of every aspect of the scam. By 1923 new investments (money) were not coming in as much and when everything collapsed, he disappeared. The search for him would take almost a year. Leo took off for Nova Scotia, Canada, grew a beard, and changed his name to Lou Keyte. Naturally, he was living a life of luxury and that is what did him in. Leo should not have taken his suit jacket to the tailor.
Empire of Deception is one hell of a ride. The writing is superb and you just cannot tear yourself away. Author Dean Jobb really knows how to tell a story. The amazing thing to me is why a man who duped so many people and then vanished to appear again in another country would continue to live the same way he did in Chicago. I can see him being a recluse and not bothering with anybody, but not him, although the second time around he did not swindle anyone in investing. Leo still tried, though, to morph into another person, so in actuality, he was still a con man.
This book is one fantastic read.
Very highly recommended.