Carlo "Charles" Ponzi
Even though his name is mistakenly associated with securities fraud, a crime that he was never convicted of, Charles Ponzi unknowingly offered his surname as the moniker for high profile financial crimes. To be sure, he did create an effective swindle. However, contrary to modern concepts, a very limited number of Ponzi’s early investors received so-called profit distributions. For the most part, Carlo (Charles) Ponzi, the clever and resourceful immigrant from Italy, personally reaped most of the fruits of his efforts. His scheme was not a pyramid, more of a straight line with new funds going directly into Ponzi’s bank accounts. Although much top-down fraud is facilitated by an elaborate system of subordinated leaders, the tip of the Ponzi spear of misconduct had room for just one personality.
The saga of Charles Ponzi, due in part to the fraudster himself, is replete with misinformation and no small amount of mystery. His possible university experience in Italy, even his place of birth, have been the subject of inconsistent accounts. Ponzi even went as far as to convince his mother that he was helping the Canadian authorities in their crime fighting efforts when actually he was in prison for forgery and fraud. What is known is that in 1903, nearly penniless, Ponzi immigrated to the United States and arrived in Boston aboard the S.S. Vancouver. There are no reliable records for his early years in America, but we do know that in 1907 he found his way to Canada, eventually getting a clerical position at Banco Zarossi, which was owned by another Italian immigrant. Through a series of misconduct and misrepresentations by either Ponzi or the bank’s president (or possibly by both in a coordinated effort), Ponzi started his life of fraud by being convicted and imprisoned in Canada for forgery.
Excerpt - Securities Fraud: Detection, Prevention and Control - Louis Straney, 2010