11 Dec: The Man Who Sold The Eiffel Tower

On this day we recall the Police operation to ensnare prolific conman Victor Lustig. 

The ‘Catch Me If You Can’-style manhunt intensified on 11th December, 1928, when Lustig made the mistake of robbing $16,000 from Massachusetts businessman Thomas Kearns, thereby triggering a chase that eventually saw Lustig sent to Alcatraz.

Prior to this, he’d scarcely ever tripped up: scamming everyone from county fair audiences to notorious gangster Al Capone. He gambled, he swindled, he fixed sporting odds. But his most audacious sting was his plan to ‘sell’ the Eiffel Tower. Twice.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly look inside Lustig’s ingenious ‘Romanian Box’; explain why his ‘marks’ weren’t just big dolts being duped, but carefully selected victims; and recall how, even when imprisoned, Lustig was ready to outsmart the authorities…

Further Reading:

• ‘The Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower. Twice.’ (Smithsonian Magazine, 2016): https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/man-who-sold-eiffel-tower-twice-180958370/#:~:text=%E2%80%9CCount%E2%80%9D%20Victor%20Lustig%2C%2046%20years%20old%20at%20the,in%20an%20audacious%20confidence%20game%E2%80%94not%20once%2C%20but%20twice.

• ‘Victor Lustig – The Man Who Conned the World, By Christopher Sandford’ (History Press, 2021): https://www.google.co.uk/books/edition/Victor_Lustig/jXEyEAAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=victor+lustig+eiffel&printsec=frontcover

• ‘What Did Count Victor Lustig Do To The Eiffel Tower?’ (QI, 2017): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAN-YqM0ZO4

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