In the tradition of bestselling books like The Devil in the White City and The Man in the Rockefeller Suit, Empire of Deception combines investigative journalism and captivating storytelling to examine one of the greatest con men of the twentieth century
It was a time of unregulated madness. And nowhere was it more mad than in Chicago at the dawn of the Roaring Twenties. Speakeasies thrived, gang war shootings announced Al Capone's rise to underworld domination, Chicago's corrupt political leaders fraternized with gangsters and the frenzy of stock market gambling was rampant. Enter a slick, smooth-talking, charismatic lawyer named Leo Koretz, who enticed hundreds of people to invest as much as $30 million—upwards of $400 million today—in phantom timberland and non-existent oil wells in Panama. When Leo's scheme finally collapsed in 1923, he vanished, and the Chicago state's attorney, a man whose lust for power equalled Leo's own lust for money, began an international manhunt that lasted almost a year. When finally apprehended, Leo was living a life of luxury in Nova Scotia under the assumed identity of a book dealer and literary critic. His mysterious death in a Chicago prison topped anything in his almost-too-bizarre-to-believe life.
Empire of Deception is not only an incredibly rich and detailed account of a man and an era; it is a fascinating look at the methods of swindlers throughout history. Leo Koretz was the Bernie Madoff of his day, and Dean Jobb shows us that the dream of easy wealth is a timeless commodity.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Would you trust a well-dressed, smooth-talking stranger guaranteeing double-digit returns on mysterious investments in Central America? What if it was your brother, cousin, or longtime friend? It’s those kinds of close ties that helped Leo Koretz pull off an astonishingly large Ponzi scheme in the Roaring Twenties. Dean Jobb’s Empire of Deception—a finalist for the 2015 Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction—is a fascinating account of this true-crime story, charting a decades-long web of lies that spread like a greed virus. Folding in newspaper reports, interviews, and court documents, Jobb narrates the story with gusto. We're taken to Chicago, Panama, New York, and finally Nova Scotia in pursuit of a man who was charming enough to make too-good-to-be-true seem possible.