Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Ponzi

I met a guy at the barber shop last night, an older gentleman, who (as the discussion in the shop made it's way to moneymaking schemes and pyramids) claimed to be Charles Ponzi's nephew. Yeah, that Ponzi, of Ponzi Scheme fame. Frankie the Barber is quite a character in his own right, and I hear a bunch of interesting stories every time I'm in there among the North End's Italian element. Fioremonkey's people. I keep going back as much for the atmosphere as the convenience of having a barber who knows what I want so I can just sit down without having to try to describe a haircut ... not to mention he only charges $10. Anyways, in the course of learning way more than I probably needed to about Frankie's credit situation, past bankruptcy, gambling problems, battles with drug addiction, etc. the guy next me perked up when Frankie started giving his pitch on some miracle drug he and some of his hustler buddies were peddling.

I got the whole story of how this product has been mentioned on Oprah, how Papelbon and Clemens are selling it, how it helped his buddy recover from cancer, how it battles free radicals in your body and is (ostensibly) the "number one food source" in the world -- I let that last bit go, having no idea what that could possibly mean. I couldn't catch the name of this wonderful snake oil pill ... Motiv8, or something like that? So as Frankie's giving the pitch and describing how you get involved in selling it and recruiting other sellers to work under you, this guy cautions Frankie how you don't want to get involved in these pyramids because his uncle invented them and they're a scam. I'm sitting there thinking, "What? You're going to tell us now you're uncle was Charles Ponzi?" and no sooner do I think it than he says, "my Uncle Charlie screwed a lot of people, people in my family, with his stamp scam."

He then described how Ponzi tried to take over the Hanover Bank and outlined roughly what's outlined in the Wikipedia article linked above. I didn't press him for names and dates or anything, but I think he really was Ponzi's nephew. Not exactly a brush with fame, but I thought it was kind of cool anyways. Mildly relevant given Cianci's release into halfway house today. It's Italian Heritage Day here at TC.

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