The most notable — and expensive — financial fraud cases of all time


Enron HQ

Financial fraud is a major crime which often comes with heavy prison sentences for those involved.
Enron, Cendant, and WorldCom are examples of massive companies torn apart by financial fraud and scandal.
Individuals can commit these crimes as well, like a pastor and a self-proclaimed financial planner who recently defrauded 29 mostly elderly people of $3.4 million, according to an SEC complaint.
Other cases include fraudsters trying to sell the Eiffel Tower and the Brooklyn Bridge.

Financial fraud is a serious white-collar crime that comes with heavy punishment, but the details of the misdeeds can be stranger than fiction.

Case in point: The SEC recently charged Kirbyjon Caldwell, a pastor based in Houston, and self-described financial planner Greg Smith in a scheme that allegedly involved luring innocent people into investing in old Chinese bonds with no worth, with the promise of large returns. Twenty nine mostly elderly investors were swindled out of $3.4 million.

A DOJ press release states that each defendant could face as many as 30 years in prison, a $1 million fine, and five years of supervised release, among other penalties.

Financial fraud isn’t new, and the extent of the crime can vary significantly. In some cases, billions of dollars are lost and companies end up bankrupt. Most cases have at least one person, but often a group of fraudsters, going to prison.

Some cases involve forged documents, while others focus on trying to sell an item somebody doesn’t own. Ponzi schemes are also common. Even bitcoin has been the source of fraud.

From corporate scandals, to major forgeries, to individual pyramid schemes, keep reading to see the most notable, and expensive, fraud cases of all time.

SEE ALSO: Tourists make easy marks — here are 9 of the most common scams to watch out for on your travels

DON’T MISS: Here’s how two wildly successful tech entrepreneurs lost their status amid a case of convoluted fraud

Charles Ponzi

The Italian-born immigrant created such an uproar over his crimes that any investment fraud or pyramid scheme committed bears his name. From 1918 to 1920, Ponzi ran a large scale international trading scheme involving reply coupons on mail stamps.

At one point, Ponzi was making $250,000 a day in post-WWI Boston but ended up owing $7 million and was charged with 86 counts of mail fraud.


The Houston-based energy company had a mighty collapse in 2001 after a failed merger and, what was at the time, the largest US bankruptcy. Enron committed fraud by overstating earnings. Numerous executives were found guilty of various crimes from obstruction of justice, money laundering, and insider training.

Bernie Madoff

Madoff is currently serving a sentence of 150-years in federal prison for securities fraud. He was a well-respected investor until it was learned that he was operating a Ponzi scheme that lost a record $65 billion for his investors.

Madoff was turned into authorities by his two …read more

Source:: Business Insider


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