Intoxicating and impressively researched, Jobb’s immorality tale provides a sobering post-Madoff reminder that those who think everything is theirs for the taking are destined to be taken.” —The New York Times Book Review “Comprehensively researched and enthralling . . . High-stakes hijinks give the story a rollicking feel, but Jobb manages great poignancy, too. . . This lively and sweeping account seems to have already given a master con artist his due, putting him in the ‘pantheon of pyramid-building swindlers.’” —The Washington Post “This cautionary tale of 1920s greed and excess reads like it could happen today.” —The Associated Press “Jobb vividly, albeit briefly, brings the Chicago of the 1880s and ‘90s to life . . . [and] is a masterpiece of narrative set-up and vivid language.”—Chicago Tribune “Dean Jobb skillfully dusts off this century-old tale with a fast-paced narrative, a keen eye for detail and a cast of characters in which the free-for-all city of Chicago plays a prominent role . . . [A] masterfully told story.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune “Jobb makes it clear that Koretz’s schemes weren’t unique to his time period. The parallels between Koretz and Madoff are fascinating: Both men 'dropped hints' and 'played hard to get,' only selling shares to those who persistently begged for them. And both confined their sales, at least at first, to an inner circle of those who knew and trusted them, making their betrayals all the more brutal.”—The Columbus Dispatch “This is a fast-paced, fact-laden narrative populated by red-blooded personalities . . . Jobb tries to get at the root of Koretz's motives, beyond the obvious one of greed. He doesn't pretend to play amateur psychoanalyst. But his portrait suggests a long streak of hedonism at the core of Koretz's personality.”—Winnipeg Free Press “For fans of true crime, particularly tales of enigmatic fraudsters duping affluent, unwitting victims, this book is for you. It’s a fine saga of charmed lives, selfish desire, smooth salesmanship, head-shaking trust, plain deceitfulness and a family’s shame.”—The Herald Chronicle “Author Dean Jobb cements Chicago’s gritty reputation in Empire of Deception. Not since Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City has an author so eloquently captured the shadowy character of the city.”—Bookpage
“Journalist Dean Jobb traces the fascinating history of Koretz’s con, quoting from primary sources in such a way that the story reads closer to a novel than a historical report. In a story that’s begging to be turned into a Mad Men-esque prestige drama, Empire Of Deception follows Koretz’s fraud from beginning to end. That ending won’t be included here, because part of Jobb’s storytelling skill involves foreshadowing events to come without revealing them.”—The A.V. Club “Jobb expertly mixes newspaper research with witness interviews to weave a rollicking narrative . . . The result is a memorable, fast-moving work of history.”—Atlanta Jewish Times “An intriguing story . . . In our own wealth-besotted times, this well-researched story of Leo Koretz is a cautionary tale.”—Washington Independent Review of Books
“Since Erik Larson’s Gilded-age classic was published in 2003, any number of historical nonfiction thrillers have laid claim to being part The Devil in the White City. Dean Jobb’s Empire of Deception is the first book I’ve read to come close to earning that title, capturing (through a dual narrative of honor and vice) the glamour of turn-of-the-century Chicago and the breathless pace of an era when anything seemed possible.”—Historical Novels Review
“Peppered with contemporaneous photos depicting the key players and the swanky places, phony stock certificates, newspaper headlines, and even a 'wanted' posted, Empire of Deception is a jaw-dropping, rollicking good read.”—Booklist
“This lively, entertaining, and depressingly relevant history of a man and his con reads like a novel and will be enjoyed by fans of popular history as well as true crime.”—Library Journal, starred review “[A] rollicking story of greed, financial corruption, dirty politics, and illicit sex.”—Publishers Weekly “The granddaddy of all con men, Leo Koretz gives Jobb the opportunity to exhibit his impressive research and storytelling skills . . . The author keeps readers on edge following the scam's collapse and the worldwide manhunt, as they wait to see if Koretz might just get away with it . . . A highly readable, entertaining story offering a solid education for any one lacking scruples and wanting to make money.” —Kirkus Reviews “Dean Jobb has written an absolutely rollicking tale that is one part The Sting, one part The Great Gatsby, and one part The Devil in the White City. Impressively researched and brilliantly told, Empire of Deception vividly recreates the unscrupulous side of 1920s Chicago where greed, deception, and corruption ran amok, and where one Leo Koretz, a charismatic and enigmatic con man, charmed them all . . . including me.” —Karen Abbott, author of Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy “A guilty-pleasure reminder that the most audacious bad guys have always been the most entertaining. In Dean Jobb’s hands, the free-for-all 1920s, a sweet spot in the history of greed and corruption, reads like a Gatsby-Ponzi mash-up. What makes Koretz’s unscrupulousness outshine Charles Ponzi’s and even Bernie Madoff’s is how, after he’s cornered, he hits the road and brazenly crafts a deluxe new life for himself in remote Canada, which launches a massive manhunt led by an obsessive Chicago lawman. Kudos to Jobb for unearthing this overlooked story and bringing to life a charming, witty, naughty, iconic American crook.” —Neal Thompson, author of A Curious Man: The Strange and Brilliant Life of Robert “Believe It or Not!” Ripley “Dean Jobb’s exploration of financial shaman Leo Koretz's shameless scheming is a great read, but it's also so much more than that. A brilliantly researched tale of greed, ambition, and our desperate need to believe in magic, it’s history that captures America as it really wasand always will be.” —Douglas Perry, author of Eliot Ness: The Rise and Fall of an American Hero “Begin with a Bernie Madoff, wolf-in-sheep's-clothing con man, pursued by a power-hungry prig of a public prosecutor; add the great hog-trough feeding frenzy of 1920s Chicago; stir with great writing and enterprising research; and there you have it: A wonderfully entertaining read!” —Michael Lesy, author of Wisconsin Death Trip “Empire of Deception is a sure thinga book guaranteed to entertain and make you rich (in knowledge, that is). Dean Jobb has found a fascinating yet little-known jazz-age tale and told it with style and smarts. Get in on the action.” —Jonathan Eig, New York Times bestselling author of Get Capone “The unique features of Dean Jobb’s book about Leo Koretz are his lively description of the people involved and the slippery slope that grew with each fraudulent step. The book makes the people come alive, presenting a ‘movie in words.’ Empire of Deception demonstrates the dangers of unverified promises of great wealth and is an invaluable lesson on how investors can protect themselves.” —Professor Tamar Frankel, author of The Ponzi Scheme Puzzle “A captivating tale of high-flying financial chicanery in 1920s Chicago. Dean Jobb tells the story of Leo Koretz, a legendary con artist of Madoffian audacity, with terrific energy and narrative brio. A thoroughly enjoyable read.” —Gary Krist, New York Times bestselling author of City of Scoundrels “This highly readable account of a major swindle in the Roaring Twenties in Chicago will convince any sensible reader that when it comes to investing in crackpot schemes, nobody ever learns anything by experience. Leo Koretz did exactly what Bernie Madoff did, and came to the same end, as did his investors. A dramatic read, and a useful lesson!” —Michael Korda, author of Charmed Lives “Except to those being swindled, swindlers make wonderful, swaggering copy, and Dean Jobb has made splendid use of the material in this juicy retelling. His story of conman Leo (or Lou, or Al, or whatever name he chose to use) and his pathetically gullible and mostly rich victims perfectly captures the flavors of Chicago (and New York! and Nova Scotia!) in the Roaring Twenties. What a great caper movie this would make!” —Marq de Villiers, author of Our Way Out: Principles for a Post-Apocalyptic World
Before Bernie Madoff, before even Charles Ponzi, there was Leo Koretz. In 1920s Chicago, the unsuccessful lawyer began his foray into crime by selling fake mortgages, using the money from new investors to pay the dividends to previous buyers. He dabbled in land speculation of all kinds, but his real fortune came when he "struck oil" on land in Panama. Jobb (journalism, Univ. of King's Coll., Canada; The Cajuns) details how Koretz was a master of reverse psychology; he would leak the news of his great investment and make his "marks" beg to be allowed to invest. Then he foolishly allowed some of his investors to examine the oil fields for themselves. By the time they understood the deception, Koretz had disappeared without a trace. He hid in Nova Scotia, living an outrageous lifestyle, until by a fluke he was recognized and brought back to Chicago to meet his fate. The swindler died in prison soon after, but his techniques live on in today's headlines as the attraction of getting something for nothing has never died. VERDICT This lively, entertaining, and depressingly relevant history of a man and his con reads like a novel and will be enjoyed by fans of popular history as well as true crime.—Deirdre Bray Root, MidPointe Lib. Syst., OH
The granddaddy of all con men, Leo Koretz (1881-1925), gives Jobb (Journalism/Univ. of King's Coll., Halifax; The Cajuns: A People's Story of Exile and Triumph, 2005) the opportunity to exhibit his impressive research and storytelling skills.The original Ponzi scheme lasted less than a year, but Koretz had already laid the groundwork for the greatest fraud ever. Bored with his life as a lawyer, he discovered an easy way to make money from people who already had plenty, but selling false mortgages to acquaintances didn't begin to support his extravagant lifestyle. Eventually, a merchant named David Nieto drew Koretz in, claiming to have acreage in the Bayano Valley in Panama that had a limitless supply of timber. After investing $1,000, Koretz convinced friends to add another $9,000. When he went to Panama to inspect the land, he knew he'd been played for a sucker. He may have lost money, but it showed him the means to get others to invest in his "big idea" to profit from "timberland" in Panama. Throughout his fraudulent "career," he was clever in choosing investors, never asking outright for money. Instead, he hinted at the great wealth he was making, and he flaunted it, insisting he was fully backed. Nothing drives up demand like short supply, and the wealthy friends he lavishly entertained were begging to give him money. As often as not, he turned them down, but they invariably came back with still larger checks. Koretz used the new income to pay out dividends to the investors, many of whom were his own extended family. In a stroke of evil genius, he convinced most of them to reinvest the dividends, most never taking a dime of profit. The author keeps readers on edge following the scam's collapse and the worldwide manhunt, as they wait to see if Koretz might just get away with it. A highly readable, entertaining story offering a solid education for anyone lacking scruples and wanting to make money. Surely Bernie Madoff studied Koretz's methods.