Charles Ponzi

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Charles Ponzi (March 3, 1882 – January 18, 1949) was an Italian swindler, who is considered one of the greatest swindlers in American history. His aliases include Charles Ponei, Charles P. Bianchi, Carl and Carlo. The term "Ponzi scheme" was coined because of Charles Ponzi's scam and today it is the description of any scam that pays early investors returns from the investments of later investors. Charles Ponzi promised clients a 50% profit within 45 days, or 100% profit within 90 days, by buying discounted postal reply coupons in other countries and redeeming them at face value in the United States as a form of arbitrage.[1][2] Ponzi was probably inspired by the scheme of William F. Miller, a Brooklyn bookkeeper who in 1899 used the same scheme to take in $1 million.[3]

Contents

Early life

Parts of Charles Ponzi's life are somewhat difficult to determine, owing to his propensity to fabricate and embellish facts. He was born Carlo Pietro Giovanni Guglielmo Tebaldo Ponzi in Lugo, Italy in 1882. He told The New York Times that he had come from a well-to-do family in Parma, Italy.[3] He took a job as a postal worker early on, but soon was accepted into the University of Rome La Sapienza. His friends considered the university a "four-year vacation," and he was inclined to follow them around to bars, cafés, and the opera.

Arrival in America

On November 15, 1903, he arrived in Boston aboard the S.S. Vancouver. By his own account, Ponzi had $2.50 in his pocket, having gambled away the rest of his life savings during the voyage. "I landed in this country with $2.50 in cash and $1 million in hopes, and those hopes never left me," he later told The New York Times.[3] He quickly learned English and spent the next few years doing odd jobs along the East Coast, eventually taking a job as a dishwasher in a restaurant, where he slept on the floor. He managed to work his way up to the position of waiter, but was fired for shortchanging the customers and theft.

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