One of the most talented con artists who ever lived was Victor Lustig.Lustig's master con began one spring day when he was reading a newspaper. An article discussed the problems the city was having maintaining the Eiffel Tower. Even keeping it painted was an expensive chore, and the tower was becoming somewhat run down.Lustig adopted the persona of a government official, and had a forger produce fake government stationery for him. Lustig then sent six scrap metal dealers an invitation to attend a confidential meeting to discuss a possible business deal.There, Lustig introduced himself as the deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Posts and Telegraphs. He explained that the dealers had been selected on the basis of their good reputations as honest businessmen, and then dropped his bombshell. Lustig told the group that the upkeep on the Eiffel Tower was so outrageous that the city could not maintain it any longer, and wanted to sell it for scrap.Due to the certain public outcry, he went on, the matter was to be kept secret until all the details were thought out. Lustig said that he had been given the responsibility to select the dealer to carry out the task.Back on the ground, Lustig asked for bids to be submitted the next day, and reminded them that the matter was a state secret. In reality, Lustig already knew he would accept the bid from one dealer, Andre Poisson. Poisson who was insecure, feeling he was not in the inner circles of the Parisian business community, and thought that obtaining the Eiffel Tower deal would put him in the big league. Lustig had quickly sensed Poisson's eagerness.To deal with the suspicious Poisson, Lustig arranged another meeting, and then "confessed". As a government minister, Lustig said, he did not make enough money to pursue the lifestyle he enjoyed, and needed to find ways to supplement his income. This meant that his dealings needed certain discretion.So Lustig not only received the funds for the Eiffel Tower, he also got a bribe on top of that. Lustig and his personal secretary, an American conman named Dan Collins, hastily took a train for Vienna with a suitcase full of cash. He knew the instant that Poisson called the government ministries to ask for further information the whole fraud would be revealed and the law would intervene.A month later, Lustig returned to Paris, selected six more scrap dealers, and tried to sell the Eiffel Tower once more. This time, the mark went to the police before Lustig managed to close the deal, but Lustig still managed to evade arrest.
6 years ago