Who could have thought that Joseph Weil (1875 — 1976), a brilliant swindler known in the criminal world of the early twentieth century as the Yellow Kid, honestly referred to as “scam King of the ХХ century”, a great expert on psychology, who made people give him money voluntarily even with joy, died not in prison or from police bullets, but from his fame.
Joseph Weil had a complete “swindler set”: he had fantasy, endurance, courage, extraordinary intelligence and an ability to think every step ahead. Whaley revealed the features of an adventurer and swindler early: the boy hoaxed weak-sighted farmers, selling them “gold” framed glasses for an amount twenty times as much as their real value. At the same time the deceived were convinced that the young man was a spooney.
Then followed the humble work of a waiter in the saloon on the outskirts of Chicago, and this work didn’t clearly meet the fraudster’s demands. So after a while Weil cut loose and chart his own course. Having made “magical” remedy for worms on his own (which did not cure from parasites, but relieved running nose), he became a traveling salesman, spreading his “invention”.
The medicine sold well. Whale’s fraudulent nature demanded more. Therefore, he was always thinking over new schemes for defrauding money in his mind.
Wales’s most famous scam became a spectacle that could be called “One hour in the life of the bank.” This brilliant, virtuoso scam was staged from the banking life. By this time, Weill and his accomplice Fred Buckminster, a police officer from the fraud Squad in Chicago, got “specialized” in selling non-existent land (by the way, Benito Mussolini himself got into the trap).
Buckminster was preparing a new client — a Canadian millionaire. Buckminster informed the millionaire that a bank owner wanted to sell the land with an oil deposit at a quarter of the price on one condition — paid only in cash. The Canadian liked it as a scheme of tax evasion, and he agreed to meet with the land owner. The millionaire came to the bank.
There was mess there: the queue to the cashier, security, papers … The Canadian waited for the owner for an hour, constantly hearing that it was necessary to reinforce security as there was so much money nowhere to put. Then came Whale. He spoke coolly and dispassionately, showed documents on the land confirming that there was oil there and that the land belonged to him. He eventually sold the land not for half a million but for 400 thousand pretending to dispute with Buckminster about the price. The Canadian gave the money and, satisfied, went to the airport. Poor Canadian did not know that the bank was fake and saved 100 thousand did not pay off 400 lost.
The lowdown of this story was that Weil had seen the announcement that Muncie, the National Commercial Bank, was moving to a new office. Finding the owner, he rented an office and occupied it the next day after the bank moved. The same day came the Canadian. Naturally, all the signs were still in place, and it misled the Canadian. The bank, in which he gave 400 thousand, was empty before he arrived at the airport cheated.
Brilliant deception did not leave Hollywood indifferent. the movie “The Sting” with Paul Newman and Robert Redford was filmed “based on” the crime. Cine swindlers, however, opened a bookmaker’s office, not the bank.
Joseph Weil lived 101 years and died in a homeless shelter. His squandering and reputation brought him there. He was very famous and known among the police. All his cronies had long been imprisoned, small scams went from bad to worse, the major would not work at all, and eventually Yellow Kid, named so because of the love for yellow ties and handkerchiefs, King of fraudsters having earned his title in the rough sea of crime, was buried on the Chicago cemetery in a grave for the poor.