Empire of Deception

From Chicago to Nova Scotia — The Incredible Story of a Master Swindler Who Seduced a City and Captivated a Nation

Reviewed by Karine Duhamel

July 20, 2016

Before there was Bernie Madoff, there was Leo Koretz, a master swindler who, in early twentieth-century Chicago, enticed hundreds of people to invest as much as $30 million dollars — and then simply vanished.

Dean Jobb presents the story of Koretz, who was known by his early classmates, associates, and, eventually, by family and friends as someone who could “get blood from a turnip.” A victim of a swindle himself, Koretz parlayed his misfortune into his own scheme, drawing in friends, family, and close associates, including his own rabbi, before it collapsed in 1923.

Jobb traces the thrilling story of deception, following Koretz from Chicago, to New York, to Nova Scotia, where he reinvented himself as a wealthy, bookish man with an eye for the ladies, hosting lavish parties at Pinehurst, a hunting lodge in south-central Nova Scotia. Empire of Deception portrays the details of the Koretz swindle and its human cost — from the nervous breakdown of his wife, Mae, to the feelings of bewilderment and disappointment of Nova Scotians who had enjoyed his hospitality.

Jobb’s book is a thrilling read — a journey through the evasive American dream of easy wealth and its inevitable demise.

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