Let's give the devils their due. Yeah, they've screwed over thousands of innocent people. But some of them had balls the size of hot air balloons and for that, we must salute them.
Charles 'The Ponz' Ponzi is, quite simply, one of the greatest swindlers in American history. The originator and copyright holder of the piece de resistance of his career, the "Ponzi Scheme," Ponzi also boasted old-timey movie star looks and a smirk that could charm the pants off of the Pope.
Much like Vito Corleone, Ponzi came to America as an impoverished Italian immigrant. Also like Vito Corleone, Ponzi decided early in the game that his many talents should not be squandered working in a opium pipe-making factory, or wherever they sent the Italians to work back then. Keep in mind that the man had already served time in Canada, hiding it from his family by telling them he had gotten a job there. Once he was out and in the states, he created his own little plan for living the good life.
The deal was, back then you could get these coupons that could be redeemed for stamps in other countries. Ponzi noticed that back in Italy these coupons cost way less than the stamps in America. So, he figured it was still 1918 and there were a lot of retarded people around, and that he could buy like a billion of those coupons in Italy and then redeem them for the stamps here. He made 400 percent profit on each transaction, and didn't produce a damned thing.
Ponzi thought, well, shit, why isn't everybody doing this? So this smooth operator convinced thousands of people to invest in his totally legit business, the Securities Exchange Company, and by 1920 was making $250,000 a day.
Remember those coupons Ponzi was supposed to be buying with all this investor money? Yeah, he wasn't. There wasn't even a thousandth as many of the coupons in existence as the investors had given him the money to buy. He was basically just taking the investor's money, piling it up and swimming around in it like Scrooge McDuck. It was estimated that millions of dollars had passed through his hands and he had nothing to show for them but his awesome mustache.
Still, when an angry crowd of investors gathered outside his office, he walked right out there, smiled, gave them some money and offered coffee. That's the kind of guy he was.
He was eventually sentenced to prison, at which point he jumped bail, moved to Florida and went right back to scamming. When the cops came for him, he changed his appearance, stowed away on a boat and tried to leave the country. Finally, he got caught and went to jail.
The thing is, before that whole mess, Ponzi had come up with another idea. Back in 1918 he had tried to publish this book of business listings, where the businesses would pay to get listed and then people would use the listing to decide where to shop. Everyone told him the idea was retarded and he dropped it, plunging into a life of fraud instead. Later, somebody else would get rich on a thing called "The Yellow Pages."
For you poor unfortunates uneducated in the ways of evangelical fundamentalism, Benny Hinn may be off your radar. Which is too bad. Because Benny Hinn is king of the Muppet-Showesque monstrosities known as faith healers. He's so good, that he makes you forget about their supposed real king, What's His Name of Nazareth. "So what?," you may ask. "So he's a faith-healing evangelical--I've got dozens of those under my bed. What's the big deal?"
Mr. Hinn has built his ministry on a few tenets. One is his gift of prophecy. Here are just a few of his better known predictions:
God will kill all the homosexuals by fire;
Castro will die in the 1990s;
An earthquake would destroy the American east coast, also in the 1990s;
JESUS CHRIST HIMSELF was going to make a personal appearance at Hinn's African crusade.
Needless to say, Jesus had a great deal going on that day and couldn't make it. Followers have still donated millions to Hinn, who lives in a $10 million house and drives a Mercedes SUV. Apparently there's, like, some kind of law against asking people to donate money to God and then buying bling with it instead, because the Senate Committee on Finance launched an investigation late last year. If they have hearings it'll be interesting to see if Jesus makes an appearance.
It takes a special kind of guy to make this list. False prophesies and wicked combovers just aren't going to cut it. But Hinn is no ordinary minion of Satan. Observe:
As you can see, Hinn performs his miracles by slapping old people to the ground, and then apparently doing a Jedi force-push against those who come to their aid. Fat people, tiny deaf orphan children, epileptic mulleted types, anyone is fair game for the wrath of Hinn, who then swaggers around those passed out fools like Ali demanding a rematch.Audacity Factor:
In 2006 this pimp sent out this letter to his followers:
... we have recently taken delivery on our Gulfstream G4SP plane, which we call Dove One. I have enclosed a beautiful photo-filled brochure to explain more about this incredible ministry tool that will increase the scope of our abilities to preach the Gospel around the globe. Now we must pay the remainder of the down payment, and I am asking the Lord Jesus to speak to 6,000 of my precious partners to sow a seed of $1,000 in the next ninety days. And I am praying, even as I write this letter, that you will be one of them!
Walking may have been good enough for Jesus Christ, but it's not good enough for Benny Hinn. Somebody, please, buy this man a Dove One. Better yet, go ahead and purchase him a yacht, a subway line, the Orient Express, some rickshaws and a few of those elephants domesticated for human transportation. ANYTHING to get his egregious face-slapping ministry to the people.
Hell, maybe he's not a con man after all. Watch that video, the man's worth every penny.