[MUSIC] Uh, the Eiffel Tower. Sacrebleu! Paris’s iconic monument, beloved by Parisians and tourists alike. [MUSIC] It stood for over a century and is known around the world as a triumph of art and architecture, and it’s always been this way since its inception, right? [MUSIC] Wrong. In fact, the Eiffel Tower was never supposed to be standing this long. At the time of its construction in 1887, it was heavily protested by artists, engineers and architects. The 1,000 foot iron tower was built as the main attraction and entrance of the 1889 World’s Fair, and it was scheduled to be taken down in 1909. But by 1914, the tower had proved to be a valuable resource for the French. During World War 1, a radio transmitter atop the tower jammed German communications and subsequently stalled their advancement towards Paris. However, the glory of war could not save the tower from disrepair [BACKGROUND] and 10 years later, support for its removal was growing, it was rusting, an eyesore, expensive. One of those articles got into the hands of one of the most notorious criminals of the 20th century, Victor Lustig. Hey everyone, I’m Patrick Jones, and welcome to the vault where we tell tales of true financial crime. I do this for some reason and the end quote. [MUSIC] Victor Lustig was born Robert V Miller in Austria Hungary in 1890. He was the son of the burglar master or mayor of the town. No, wait, or was he the son of the poorest peasants in town and raised in a small stone house? It’s hard to say. [NOISE] Lustig often gave conflicting accounts of his childhood throughout his life, but what we do know for certain is that he would come to build his life on crime. [BACKGROUND] Lustig was recognized as one of the smartest boys in class. He excelled in foreign languages, psychology and the study of people, sociology. That’s probably what that is. But his best attribute was his charm, and he often pushed things to see how far his charisma could take him. While studying in Paris at the age of 19, Lustig took on poker, billiards [NOISE] and gambling of all sorts. [BACKGROUND] On the side, he was also a notorious pickpocket and street hustler. [NOISE] He found an uncanny ability to hold a straight face and charm his way to success, even if it rubs some the wrong way. One night after flirting with another man’s girlfriend, [BACKGROUND] Lustig earned a scar across his face. Frankly, for his line of work, the scar seems fitting. Upon leaving school, he decided to use his intelligence and charm for a life of professional crime, [MUSIC] reach for the stars. His first string of tricks took place upon Trans Atlantic ocean liners, he would pose as a famous Broadway producer [BACKGROUND] and approach wealthy passengers convincing them to invest in a non-existent production. A scam that would now be trapped in your spam inbox. For his next scam, Lustig built what’s called a Romanian box. A trunk sized wooden box with two slots on either side and multiple brass knobs and levers that could purportedly duplicate any paper currency. Vulnerable victims would insert bills, only hundreds, and the machine would print out an exact copy. Of course, the device would need six hours to process the fresh new bill which in reality Lustig had previously planted, it was a scam. But once Lustig’s mark was convinced of the boxes powers, he would sell them a device at an extremely high price, anywhere between $10,000 and $30,000. At this point, Lustig would run off [LAUGHTER] never to be heard from again. His victim left with only a fancy empty wooden box, at least it’s fancy. From 1909 to 1925, Victor Lustig gained fluency in five languages, obtained 22 aliases and racked up more than 40 arrests, hall of Fame numbers. But his biggest scheme was yet to come. [MUSIC] This is a drum roll. Let’s say drum. [MUSIC] In 1925, Lustig was back in a Paris hotel room when he came across an article regarding the Eiffel Towers disrepair. It accounted a public poll in which the majority of the city wanted it removed. [BACKGROUND]. Lustig saw an opportunity and a lot of money. In the form of 7,000 tons of metal, he devised a plan where he would pose as a government official and sell the Eiffel Tower to metal scrappers. First, he contacted a counterfeiter to create an official government documents detailing the demolition plan and contract. He even created false stationery with his new municipal title, deputy director general of the minister [FOREIGN]. Lay off men, I didn’t take French in high school. The more titles, the fisher it seems, you’re trying too hard, it’s too many names. It was on the stationery that he wrote letters to the city’s five most prominent metal scrappers. The letters invited the scrappers to a confidential meeting at the luxurious hotel, De Crillon in Paris. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry for that. With his signature charm, Lustig performed a speech detailing the city’s plan to remove the iconic structure and sell its metal for scrap. To justify the secretive nature of the meeting, he warned of the potential for negative press and public outcry if the word were to get out. [MUSIC] After wine, dinner, and a limo trip to the tower he intended to demolish, Lustig narrowed down his target to Andre Poisson, an insecure man relatively new to the scrapping industry, looking for his big break. Poisson agreed to the deal and gave Lustig $70,000 cash for the rights to the Eiffel Tower, that’s over a million dollars in today’s money. Just as soon as the deal was made and the money was in his hands, Lustig fled France for Austria. After a week of no communication, Poisson realized what had occurred. The Eiffel Tower was not for sale, he was scammed by professional con man. But to prevent embarrassment and protect his livelihood, he kept quiet, [BACKGROUND] he never filed a report, poor guy. In a shockingly brazen move, Lustig came back to Paris six months later and tried to sell the Eiffel Tower again, though this time the iron dealer became suspicious and contacted the French authorities. But before police could act, Lustig being just one step ahead as always, vanished yet again. [MUSIC]. This time, Lustig fled to the US where he continued scamming more unsuspecting casualties of his legendary charm. Finally, after an extensive counterfeiting scheme in which he and a chemist released $1 million of today’s money into the economy a month, an encounter with legendary gangster Al Capone, and arrest and subsequent escape from a Manhattan prison, Lustig was finally apprehended 28 days later in Pittsburgh by federal authorities. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and this time he was sent to Alcatraz. Alcatraz, the red rock in San Francisco bay. Or The Rock as it’s commonly known, where he spent his final years. Well, before his death, Lustig is credited with writing the 10 commandments for conmen, here they are. Be a patient listener, never looked bored, wait for the other person to reveal any political opinions, then agree with him, let the other person reveal religious views, then have the same ones, hint at sex talk, but don’t follow it up unless the other person shows a strong interest, never discuss illness, unless some special concern is shown, never pry into a person’s personal circumstances, they’ll tell you all eventually, never boast, just let your importance be quietly obvious, never be untidy, never get drunk. [MUSIC] The secret agent who call Lustig, called him the smoothest con man ever, and who can argue with him? Which surprisingly isn’t written on his tombstone because that’s bad ass, and it should be there, I would. [MUSIC] Thank you everybody for watching the vault. If you liked what you saw, please like, comment, subscribe. If you have stories that you’d like to see us animate and have fun with, uh, that are related to financial crime we’d love to hear about it. Uh, who doesn’t like a good true financial crime story. Um, thank you very much for watching.