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Ponzi's Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend | [Mitchell Zuckoff]

Ponzi's Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend

It was a time when anything seemed possible, instant wealth, glittering fame, fabulous luxury, and for a run of magical weeks in the spring and summer of 1920, Charles Ponzi made it all come true. Promising to double investors' money in three months, the dapper, charming Ponzi raised the "rob Peter to pay Paul" scam to an art form and raked in millions at his office in downtown Boston.
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Publisher's Summary

It was a time when anything seemed possible, instant wealth, glittering fame, fabulous luxury, and for a run of magical weeks in the spring and summer of 1920, Charles Ponzi made it all come true. Promising to double investors' money in three months, the dapper, charming Ponzi raised the "rob Peter to pay Paul" scam to an art form and raked in millions at his office in downtown Boston. Ponzi's Scheme is the amazing true story of the irresistible scoundrel who launched the most successful scheme of financial alchemy in modern history, and uttered the first roar of the Roaring Twenties.

Ponzi may have been a charlatan, but he was also a wonderfully likable man. His intentions were noble, his manners impeccable, his sales pitch enchanting. Born to a genteel Italian family, he immigrated to the United States with big dreams but no money. Only after he became hopelessly enamored of a stenographer named Rose Gnecco and persuaded her to marry him did Ponzi light on the means to make his dreams come true. His true motive was not greed but love.

With rich narrative skill, Mitchell Zuckoff conjures up the feverish atmosphere of Boston during the weeks when Ponzi's bubble grew bigger and bigger. At the peak of his success, Ponzi was taking in more than $2 million a week. And then his house of cards came crashing down, thanks in large part to the relentless investigative reporting of Richard Grozier's Boston Post.

In Zuckoff's hands, Ponzi is no mere swindler; instead he is appealing and magnetic, a colorful and poignant figure, someone who struggled his whole life to attain great wealth and who sincerely believed, to the very end, that he could have made good on his investment promises if only he'd had enough time. Ponzi is a classic American tale of immigrant life and the dream of success, and the unexpectedly moving story of a man who, for a fleeting, illusory moment, attained it all.

©2005 Mitchell Zuckoff; (P)2005 Books on Tape, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Zuckoff...tells Ponzi's story amicably and briskly, and keeps the complicated financial intricacies understandable." (The New York Times Book Review)
"Zuckoff's biography of Ponzi is meticulously accurate, based on memoirs and newspaper accounts of the day, weaving the story of the rise of this small-time Italian immigrant with that of Richard Grozier, second-generation editor of the Boston Post." (Booklist)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.2 (171 )
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  •  
    Lisa Harris 05-19-15
    Lisa Harris 05-19-15 Member Since 2014
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    8
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    Story
    "The reading was good, but the writing wasn't"

    The reading was good, but the writing wasn't as cohesive as I'd hoped. The story lines were a bit disparate.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    David San Diego, CA, United States 05-11-15
    David San Diego, CA, United States 05-11-15 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The Great Grifter"
    Would you consider the audio edition of Ponzi's Scheme to be better than the print version?

    I think the print version makes it easier to keep track of the time span of things, but the audio version has a good flow.


    Would you listen to another book narrated by Grover Gardner?

    Perhaps. Garnder did a good job with an interesting piece of history


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    raul del portillo 01-03-15
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    6
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    "Actually made a human out of Ponzi."
    What made the experience of listening to Ponzi's Scheme the most enjoyable?

    The way Mitchell Zuckoff takes these characters who you believe to be secondary or tertiary in nature to the story and develps them as if they were major players. The research that was presented in the book was scrupulousw and masterful. It takes you from having Ponzi being a poor immigrant bon-vivant with dreams and ambitions much larger than life to an enterprising businessman/scoundrel that still has a heart of gold. I still don't understand his donation of skin to someone he did not know... almost as if he was buying "postal coupons" for heaven. All I had heard or read about Ponzi to date has been negative, this book opened up a human window into the person.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    The reporters and editors of the Post, who believed enough on themselves to risk embarrassment and finacial ruin exposing Ponzi.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    Ponzi discovering the International Postal reply coupons and the follow up scheme.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    If there was, I suppose the arrival of Ponzi's mom at Boston.


    Any additional comments?

    An excellent, well researched book Thank you Mr. Zuckoff.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Judy 04-09-14
    Judy 04-09-14 Member Since 2015
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    "A great listen!"

    I found this book to be VERY interesting and like Ponzi thru out the book. I only wish the story was longer. It was a good way to learn about the man, and frankly I liked him very much.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    John J. Niebler 02-06-12 Member Since 2014
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    "Crazy rise & fall of ambitious, oddly unaware, man"

    Story of Ponzi's life is well told, if maybe too briefly, before and after the main days of his Scheme. In the midst of the craziness of the Scheme, when hundreds of thousands of dollars are flowing into Ponzi's company, the author does a very good job of reconstructing. He carries us along as each of the players involved converged on Ponzi's ultimate downfall. As for Ponzi, he was oddly unaware of the harm he was causing. From this author's telling, he could see moral problems in some areas of his and other's lives, but not as much with his Scheme.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Shawn Lindon, UT, United States 04-30-11
    Shawn Lindon, UT, United States 04-30-11 Member Since 2014
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    "Riveting"

    I was completely fascinated from start to finish. What a great tale. I will never hear "Ponzi scheme" the same way again.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jean STAFFORD, VA, United States 06-26-10
    Jean STAFFORD, VA, United States 06-26-10 Member Since 2009
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    "Fascinating!"

    This book was such a good read. I really didn't know what to expect, you actually feel quite sorry for Ponzi in the end. He had such good intentions, but you know what they say about "good intentions".
    From start to finish I just couldn't put this book down.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Chris Wilmington, NC, USA 02-15-10
    Chris Wilmington, NC, USA 02-15-10 Member Since 2011
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    "Loved It"

    I always like reading about how certain phrases or actions get into society. This one was very intriguing and at times I felt sorry for Ponzi. He started out with honest motives but got in over his head. An interesting story that puts a friendly face on one of the most ridiculed ways of thievery.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Leon Laguna Beach, CA, United States 06-11-09
    Leon Laguna Beach, CA, United States 06-11-09 Member Since 2015
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    "How stupid can people be???"

    What a fun book to listen to! It's hard to believe that people in the 20's were that gullible. But, given all the TARP money that Washington has handed out, maybe we haven't changed that much. I actually liked Charles Ponzi at the end of the book....

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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