Denver-area financiers couldnt refuse William Destros offer: using their investment, hed buy up properties that were sure to skyrocket in price, and everyone would share in the gains. What Destro didnt tell his investors and what eventually got him sentenced to 20 years in prison was that his company was so unstable there was no way he could live up to his end of the bargain. Before he was busted in 2003, Destro bilked locals including Broncos defensive back Tyrone Braxton out of $ 2.4 million over six years.
James Arthur Hogue spent a lifetime stealing identities. He even got into Princeton by pretending to be a autodidact and an orphan. When authorities caught up with him near Telluride in 2006, he was ready to run again leaving behind a horse trailer full of 7,000 stolen items that topped $100,000 in value. He now resides at the Four Mile Correction Center in San Miguel County.
Robert Allen had a way with women. In 1998, he wined and dined single ladies around Colorado all the while using their credit-card information and forged money orders to spend thousands on computers, jewelry and saddles. He's a master con artist," said a Lakewood detective at the time though not master enough to know he shouldnt try to get a store refund on a computer he bought with a forged money order. That put him in jail.
John Savage said he was a CIA agent with connections to Ferdinand Marcos and rich Kuwaiti sheiks and he had letters from President George Bush to prove it. But investigators said he was the lead conspirator in elaborate multimillion-dollar international fraud ring stretching from England to California to Colorado. But cancer caught up with Savage before police did he died in Colorado Springs in 1994, leaving a trail of unanswered questions in his wake.
Christian Lawless Harpers 1994 proposal now sounds like something out of a Simpsons episode: He was going to build a monorail through an old mining tunnel between Idaho Springs and Central City. But with gambling and real estate -- fever at an all-time high around the two communities, Harper was easily able to raise a quarter of a million dollars from investors and received nearly 3,000 inquiries about an advertised $5 million penny-stock offering. Too bad Harper was a long-time con artist, and the tunnel project turned out to be fools gold.
Dude, Storme Aerison looked like a lady. Thats how this black man, born Charles Daugherty before changing his name, was able to enroll as a white female student at a Colorado Springs high school and make the cheerleading team. Aerison was eventually exposed and kicked out in 1990 only to reappear four years later as the fraudulent supermodel sister of Kathy Ireland and allegedly wrack up several hundred thousand dollars in bad checks and credit card fraud. He was eventually arrested but he posted bail and flew to Bora Bora for a photo shoot.
Prehaps the most famous Colorado confidence man was Jefferson Randolph Smith II, who earned the nickname Soapy after the Prize Package Soap Sell Swindle of the late 1870s, early 1880s. Smith would hawk his soaps on Denver street corners, wrapping select bars in bills ranging from one to one hundred dollars in value. He would then wrap those bars in plain paper and sell them for a buck. A shill in the crowd would unwrap one exclaiming he'd won big and the suckers would line to buy bars worth considerably less. Soapy went on to have a prominent career as a crime boss in Colorado.
The man who arrived in Denver in September 2000 said his name was Ali Patrik Pahlavi, the billionaire nephew of the late Shah of Iran, and he was going to build a downtown hotel, wanted to purchase a nearby multimillion-dollar mansion, and start a disposable toothbrush factory but he needed help paying for hotel rooms and fancy clothes before his funding came through. A few months later, his victims realized he was a con man named Valliola Gnassemi Dakdare and he was sentenced to 3 years but when he got out in 2004, the man formerly known as prince started pulling his Denver scams all over again.