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Florida's Biggest Crooks

By Dian Vujovich

I’m not sure what there is about living in Florida that makes residents ripe for the picken when it comes to fraudulent money schemes. Maybe it’s the water. Or, too much sunshine. A little bit of sunshine is supposed to make for happy dispositions. And happy dispositions bred optimism. Could Floridians be victims of the sun?

Whatever. Truth is, Bernie’s supposedly greatest-Ponzi-scheme- ever, isn’t the first time investors here have been swindled.

What follows is a listing of a few of our state’s biggest crooks gleaned from a recent FloridaTrend.com article.

• Victor Incendy. In the late 1980s, Incendy created Cascade International, a publicly traded women’s fashion retailer that oops, really never existed. Investors’ lost $170 million. He fled. Remains a fugitive today while wifey and other execs went to jail.

• David Paul. Remember CenTrust Bank and all its gold and glitter? At one time it was the largest S&L in Florida then became one of the biggest bank failures in U.S. banking history. Paul pleaded guilty to racketeering, went to the slammer and was freed in 2004. His actions cost taxpayers $1.7 billion.

• Glenn W. Turner, motivational speaker. Mr. “Dare to Be Great” sold a positive attitude along with other motivational materials —and beauty supplies— to a network of millions. He was jailed for almost five years and released in 1992.

• Victor Posner. This high school dropout made a fortune selling real estate in Maryland before moving to Miami Beach in the 1950s. Finding LBOs more lucrative than real estate, his skill as a takeover artist led him to plead no contest to tax evasion and fraud. He died six years ago.

• And more recently, Louis J. Pearlman. Until quite possibly now, Pearlman had the distinction of creating the largest and longest running Ponzi scheme in Florida history. His company, Trans Continental Airlines, was a fake charter airline complete with fake travel services and a fake accounting firm to back it up. Pearlman was spotted in Bali last year and currently is sitting in jail until 2029.

FYI: Ponzi schemes are named after Charles Ponzi, an Italian immigrant who mastered the art of pyramid investing using a mail scam, made millions and died in 1949.

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