Wednesday, Mar. 07, 2012

William Miller, the Original Schemer

Decades before schemes took the name "Ponzi," Brooklyn bookkeeper William Miller was busted for swindling investors out of their hard-earned cash. In 1899, Miller operated a business called the "Franklin Syndicate," in which he promised 10% interest on contributions each week. Miller — who was nicknamed "520 percent" due to the remarkable rate of returns he promised — claimed that he had an inside window into the way that profitable businesses worked, but in the end, he defrauded investors of $1 million — a sum equal to over $25 million in today's money. Despite the severity of his crime, Miller was sentenced to 10 years in jail for grand larceny and was released in five. Upon his release, Miller steered clear of the financial world, instead opening a grocery store on Long Island.