Empire of deception : the incredible story of a master swindler who seduced a city and captivated the nation / Dean Jobb.
Booklist Reviews 2015 March #2
Dubbed the "super-Ponzi" by a Chicago newspaper in 1923, fraudster Leo Koretz spread his faux investment scheme over 20 years, selling bogus stock to family, friends, and those who begged to get in on the sure thing of his oil fields in Panama and other dubious moneymakers. Genial, humorous, and well-liked by the ladies (unbeknownst to his dedicated wife), Koretz doled out monthly dividends, keeping everyone wealthy and happy, until the whole thing collapsed, as such pyramid schemes must. Jobb's hearty, detailed retelling of this con man extraordinaire is a laugh-out-loud page-turner, full of gullibility and twists and turns (Zane Grey makes an appearance, as does Clarence Darrow) and serves almost as much as a you-were-there history of the making of Chicago's big-shouldered outlook as it does a replaying of Koretz's long-term scam. Staunchly leading the Koretz manhunt was Koretz's former law-firm mate, Cook County state's attorney Robert "Fighting Bob" Crowe. Peppered with contemporaneous photos depicting the key players and the swanky places, phony stock certificates, newspaper headlines, and even a "wanted" posted, Empire of Deception is a jaw-dropping, rollicking good read. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.
LJ Reviews 2015 March #2
Before Bernie Madoff, before even Charles Ponzi, there was Leo Koretz. In 1920s Chicago, the unsuccessful lawyer began his foray into crime by selling fake mortgages, using the money from new investors to pay the dividends to previous buyers. He dabbled in land speculation of all kinds, but his real fortune came when he "struck oil" on land in Panama. Jobb (journalism, Univ. of King's Coll., Canada; The Cajuns) details how Koretz was a master of reverse psychology; he would leak the news of his great investment and make his "marks" beg to be allowed to invest. Then he foolishly allowed some of his investors to examine the oil fields for themselves. By the time they understood the deception, Koretz had disappeared without a trace. He hid in Nova Scotia, living an outrageous lifestyle, until by a fluke he was recognized and brought back to Chicago to meet his fate. The swindler died in prison soon after, but his techniques live on in today's headlines as the attraction of getting something for nothing has never died. VERDICT This lively, entertaining, and depressingly relevant history of a man and his con reads like a novel and will be enjoyed by fans of popular history as well as true crime.—Deirdre Bray Root, MidPointe Lib. Syst., OH[Page 122]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.