Financial fraud is on the rise, so it’s worth taking a trip down a dark memory lane.

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Financial fraud is as prevalent today as it was over 100 years ago, when the Italian con artist Charles Ponzi was swindling investors out of their fortunes in one of the earliest high-profile financial scams ever recorded.

With the next recession or economic downturn in the back of investors’ minds, law enforcement officials are on the lookout for financial fraud, as scammers tend to rise in influence during difficult market conditions.

So, with fresh scandals in the news – the FTX fraud trial, for starters – let’s look at some of the most infamous financial fraud cases in recent history and use them as expensive examples of what can go wrong when bad characters get their hands on investors’ money.


The trial of 31-year-old FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried began on Oct. 3 in Manhattan, New York, after the former head of the collapsed cryptocurrency trading platform pleaded not guilty to seven counts of fraud and conspiracy. U.S. government prosecutors have called SBF’s downfall one of the biggest financial fraud cases in history. A few of his former collaborators, including business partner Gary Wang, have pleaded guilty and cooperated with investigators.

Bankman-Fried launched FTX in May 2019as a trading platform for crypto investors. Bankman-Fried was also the driving force behind hedge fund Alameda Research, which he co-founded with Wang. Flush with $1.8 billion in private financing, Bankman-Fried, along with other FTX senior executives, has been accused of using the money to buy plush beach homes in the Caribbean, invest in new ventures and send money to local and national political causes.

In late 2022, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accused Bankman-Fried of defrauding his companies’ investors by steering money from FTX into Alameda Research between 2019 and 2022. Both FTX and Alameda went bankrupt, and Bankman-Fried was arrested on fraud charges in the Bahamas. In addition to the legal battle beginning today, SBF faces a separate trial on five other charges starting in March 2024.

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