Victor Lustig, a masterful con artist of the early 20th century, achieved unparalleled notoriety by attempting to sell the Eiffel Tower—twice. In the annals of deception, Lustig’s audacious exploits stand out as a testament to his ingenuity and cunning.
The Elaborate Ruse
In 1925, under the alias “Count Victor Lustig,” he crafted an elaborate scheme convincing potential buyers that the iconic Eiffel Tower was slated for dismantling and sale as scrap metal. Armed with forged government documents and a silver tongue, Lustig spun a narrative that appealed to the greed and gullibility of his targets.
The First Sale
Lustig’s first attempt at selling the Eiffel Tower occurred in Paris, where he successfully convinced a group of scrap metal dealers to make a substantial “down payment” to secure their claim on the landmark. However, the scheme unraveled when the duped buyers realized they had been swindled. By the time authorities caught wind of the deception, Lustig had vanished, leaving behind a trail of baffled victims.
The Second Attempt
Undeterred by the close call, Lustig brazenly returned to Paris and embarked on a second attempt to sell the Eiffel Tower. This time, the authorities were already aware of his previous escapade. The audacity of attempting the same fraud twice showcased Lustig’s unwavering confidence in his abilities.
Legacy of Deception
Lustig’s audacious exploits extended beyond the Eiffel Tower. He used 47 aliases, carried dozens of fake passports, and wove a web of lies that allowed him to charm his way through various cons. His adventures led him to Chicago, where he continued to manipulate and defraud unsuspecting victims.
Unraveling the Mystique
Despite his escapades, Lustig’s legacy is one of mystique and enigma. The details of his life are clouded by the numerous aliases and deceptive practices he employed. The story of the man who tried to sell the Eiffel Tower twice endures as a captivating chapter in the history of cons and scams.