Recently, Netflix and Hulu dropped documentaries about the infamous Fyre Festival. Streamers everywhere were blessed with the employee willing to go above and beyond to pull off the “music event of the century.” As a HUGE American Greed fan, watching Fyre and Fyre Fraud felt like a special extended episode of the show.
I wasn’t surprised by how easy it was for Billy Farland to scam people out of their cold hard cash. I also wasn’t surprised by his blatant attempt to scam his victims again. His light prison sentence was disappointing, but not surprising. He deserved much more time for all the damage he caused with his antics! If you can’t get enough scamming stories (and you’ve caught up on American Greed), then we have some must-read books about some of the greatest scammers in American history.
Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou
For years, Elizabeth Holmes, CEO of Theranos, mislead investors, FDA officials, and even Theranos employees. She touted the promise of a revolutionary medical machine that would make blood tests significantly faster and easier. In 2014, Elizabeth Holmes was hailed as the female Steve Jobs. Her company, Theranos, was valued at $9 billion. By 2017, Theranos was valued at zero, and Holmes faced legal actions from the government and company investors. Bad Blood is the full story of the meteoric rise and shocking collapse of a multi-billion dollar startup.
Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Fooled Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World by Tom Wright and Bradley Hope
In 2009, mild-mannered Wharton School of Business graduate, Jho Low, set into motion a fraud of unprecedented magnitude. Low’s scheme would come to be the next great threat to the global financial system. Over a decade, Low siphoned billions of dollars from investment funds. He used that money to finance elections, purchase luxury real estate, throw extravagant parties, and even finance Hollywood films.
Steven Cohen changed Wall Street as the head of the hedge fund SAC Capital. He built a $15 billion empire based on the belief he was one of the greatest traders who ever lived. This image shattered when SAC Capital became the target of a seven-year investigation for insider trading.
Empire of Deception: The Incredible Story of a Master Swindler Who Seduced a City and Captivated the Nation by Dean Jobb
Charismatic lawyer Leo Koretz convinced hundreds of people to invest almost $30 million in nonexistent Panamanian timberland and oil wells. When his scheme finally collapses a few years later, he vanishes. Eventually, the authorities find Leo Koretz in Nova Scotia. There, he lived a life of luxury as a book dealer and literary critic under an assumed name.
When Texas rancher Frank Norfleet lost everything, he vowed to hunt down the men who conned him. Armed with a gun and a suitcase full of disguises, Norfleet crisscrosses the country to gather evidence against his enemies and becomes famous for his quest to out-con the con men.
Ponzi’s Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend by Mitchell Zuckoff
During the spring and summer of 1920, Charles Ponzi promised to double his investors’ money within three months. At the peak of success, Ponzi raked in more than $2 million a week. However, his scam went bust thanks in large part to the relentless reporting of Richard Grozier.
The Pretender: How Martin Frankel Fooled the Financial World and Led the Feds on One of the Most Publicized Manhunts in History by Ellen Pollock
Follow the two-bit investor Martin Frankel who pulled off one of the greatest financial scams of the century. Frankel essentially bilked insurance companies out of $200 million and leads the FBI on a four-month chace around the globe.
The Smartest Guys in the Room: The Amazing Rise and Scandalous Fall of Enron by Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind
Enron epitomized a great New Economy Company with skyrocketing profits and rising share prices. Then, Fortune published McLean’s article “How exactly does Enron make money?” From that point, Enron’s house of cards began to crumble. Smartest Guys in the Room follows Enron’s rise from obscurity to top of the business world to disastrous demise.
The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff and the Death of Trust by Diana B. Henriques
Get the inside story of Bernie Madoff and his $65 billion Ponzi scheme with details from Madoff himself. The Wizard of Lies is a true-life financial thriller. Henriques chronicles the full story of Madoff’s rise to Wall Street Titan. Learn how Bernie Madoff pulled off the biggest Ponzi scheme in history.