This week's cover story is about Fredrick Douglass Scott, a twentysomething con man who talked his way into getting the rights to the East St. Louis, Illinois, riverfront and eventually ended up getting arrested for fraud on Wall Street.
Scott had been running a con game where he preyed on African American investors. After his arrest, news outlets referred to Scott as the "black Bernie Madoff." He now faces up to twenty years in prison.
Scott was known for his intelligence, charisma and rags-to-riches story. People loved the young man with a bow tie who talked about how he utilized his innate financial genius to lift himself out of a childhood of poverty and into the CEO chair of a $3 billion hedge fund that focused on minority investors. The story was so good, Scott got himself written about in Ebony magazine, which he began using as a calling card to prove his legitimacy.
The problem was that it was all lies. But he played the image so well, he was able to get himself in front of bankers at conferences where he delivered his well-rehearsed sales pitch:
He had a professionally made media kit that made him seem like a powerful player in the financial world.
Scott even appeared on former CNN host Roland Martin's show to give financial advice to married couples:
Approximately two weeks after that TV appearance, Scott was arrested. But before he got that far, he had his hands on the East St. Louis riverfront, with the full support of the mayor and the city council.
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E-mail him at Ray.Downs@RiverfrontTimes.com.
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