White-collar crime may seem like a victimless transgression compared to other illegal activity , but people still get hurt. Over the years, society has witnessed some incredibly brazen acts of white-collar crime, and even though these criminal acts were non-violent, innocent victims had their lives turned upside down by these callous criminals. Their acts usually involve stealing large amounts of money through embezzlement, fraud, and other nefarious schemes, and many of these criminals have borrowed similar strategies from one another. In the end, they always get caught. Here are some of history’s greatest white-collar criminals:
Born and raised in Italy starting in the year 1882, the world had rarely seen the likes of this man. Although the way he performed his crime was performed years before by a Brooklyn bookkeeper to make nearly $1 million at the time, Charles will forever be remembered as the evil genius who mastered the Ponzi scheme and cost his investors over $20 million ($240 million today.) His scheme involved promises that he could not keep, but investors still trusted him to return a 50% profit in 45 days or a 100% profit in 90. The idea was to take cheaper postal reply coupons from other countries and sell them at face value in the United States for a profit. His plan worked for over a year before it finally caught up to him. He was later sentenced to life in prison.
“Marty” Frankel was born in 1954 to an American family, and used astrology to forecast important financial decisions. After being fired from his investment job, he used the alias “James Spencer,” among many others, to set up investment firms. From there, he continued to conduct himself in a manner that was increasingly scandalous. He continued to take money on false promises, and transferred investors’ money to his personal bank account. Finally, his crimes caught up to him and he fled to Germany where he was arrested for passport fraud and later extradited to the United States in 2001. He is currently serving a 16 year sentence in prison for stealing over $200 million.
Possibly the most criminal enterprise in recent years, Enron has become synonymous with white-collar crimes. At its peak, Enron was the seventh largest company in the United States, and its headquarters were located just south of Austin, Texas in Houston. The company’s executives used shell corporations to make the business appear more profitable than it actually was, and for a while their plan worked. It wasn’t until 2001 that investors started to realize what was really going on, and the price of Enron’s stock fell from $90 to nearly $0.70 a share. The truly despicable part of this tale is that the executives were able to steal millions of dollars before the company collapsed. Although many senior-level employees were sentenced to prison, the company’s founder and mastermind behind the plot died before he could serve is 45 years behind bars.