Empire of Deception: The Incredible Story of a Master Swindler Who Seduced a City and Captivated the Nation

EMPIRE OF DECEPTION                             DEAN JOBB

In a time of unregulated madness, nowhere was it madder than in Chicago at the dawn of the Roaring Twenties. It was the perfect place for a slick, smooth-talking, charismatic lawyer named Leo Koretz to entice hundreds of people to invest as much as $30 million--upwards of $400 million today--in phantom timberland and nonexistent oil wells in Panama. It was an ingenious deceit, one that out-Ponzied Charles Ponzi himself. 

In this rip-roaring tale of greed, financial corruption, dirty politics, over-the-top and under-the-radar deceit, illicit sex, and a brilliant and wildly charming con man on the town and then on the lam, Empire of Deception proves that the American dream of easy wealth is truly a timeless commodity.


A true crime story about a man named Leo Koretz, who during the roaring 20’s swindle people out of 30 million dollars. In today’s market that would be 400 million. Leo did not care who you were weather politician, friend or even a family member. The author takes you through his life and his actual graduation of becoming a lawyer. He then takes you through his first series of scams dating from 1905 when he began forging mortgages on non- existent properties. The money he started to receive helped pay for the lifestyle he began to show everyone and this would end up helping also in with his next plan land speculation in Arkansas, and then fake mortgages in rice farms in Arkansas. In 1911 he would begin to sell stock in the Bayano River Syndicate which under his claims controlled millions of acres of prime timber in a remote jungle in Panama. This is one of the times when he brought relatives of his to Chicago and put them up in the best hotel and paid for everything. By doing this they, of course, invested before going home. During one of his meetings when he brought in a group of people and wined and dined them he changed the course of the evening by announcing that oil had just been discovered on the land he had bought. He would have a western union telegram sent to him to the hotel to make it look official. By 1923 his scam was found out and he was on the run. Captured a year later he would die in prison a year later after some suspicious circumstances. His total of bilking was more than Charles Ponzi, but nowhere near Bernard Madoff’s schemes of 65 billion. The author does a nice job of taking you through past and then bringing you up to the present. A very good book. I received this book from Netgalley.com I gave it 4 stars. Follow us at www.1rad-readerreviews.com

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