From the world’s biggest cryptocurrency scammer to the Australian twosome who pulled off an audacious insider trading heist, some truly sensational financial frauds are laid bare in these must-listen podcasts.
1. The Missing Cryptoqueen
Most fraudsters prefer to stay out of the limelight and choose to pose as ordinary, mundane professionals as they lure victims into their traps. But Ruja Ignatova was anything but ordinary. The inventor of an alleged cryptocurrency called OneCoin, the ballgown-clad businesswoman cast herself as a glamorous, celebrity entrepreneur, like Richard Branson or Elon Musk, even addressing packed out crowds at Wembley Arena in 2016.
But it all turned out to be a shamelessly elaborate fraud. Having fleeced investors out of billions with a cryptocurrency that wasn’t actually a cryptocurrency, Ruja Ignatova has since disappeared. How did she do it? Where did she come from? Where might she be now? This thrilling podcast tells the saga of one of the most effective conwomen the world has ever seen.
2. The Sure Thing
Two lads named Chris Hill and Lukas Kamay met at university, hit it off, and then decided to carry out the biggest insider trading scam in Australian history. This is the story that unfolds in The Sure Thing, and it’s basically the Down Under equivalent of The Wolf of Wall Street. Indeed, Kamay, who had a habit of making million-dollar trades while sitting in a toilet cubicle, actually labelled one of his transactions ‘Wolf of Wall Street’.
Their scheme was simple. Hill, who worked at the Australian Bureau of Statistics, used burner phones to pass on sensitive data to Kamay, who was a trader at National Australia Bank. This data allowed Kamay to anticipate whether currencies would go up or down in value and make insanely lucrative trades. But what started as a tight, contained plan to make $200,000, soon spiralled out of control, and it was only a matter of time before people started to notice.
3. Who the Hell is Hamish?
He was known as Hamish McLaren, Hamish Tavita, Hamish Maxwell, and Hamish Watson. But while his identity may have kept on morphing, one thing remained the same: Hamish was a ruthless fraudster, thought to have bagged over $70 million during his decades-long criminal career.
So, given that even true crime fans probably won’t have heard of him, just Who the Hell is Hamish? This Australian podcast tells the story of a chameleonic conman who pretended to be a graduate of Harvard Business School and modelled himself on James Bond. Behind the suave, seductive veneer, he was running a tawdry Ponzi scheme, persuading his targets to invest in make-believe businesses and then simply moving money between their accounts while taking a healthy portion for himself. How did one man manage to charm and rip off so many people for so long?
4. The Dropout
Elizabeth Holmes was still a teenager when she founded healthtech company Theranos, which claimed to have revolutionised the way we conduct blood tests. Before long, the company had racked up gigantic investments from venture capitalists, Holmes was gracing the covers of magazines, and she was being hailed as history’s youngest-ever self-made female billionaire. It seemed like a tech world fairytale until suspicions began to swirl around Theranos and is much-touted technology.
Could this trailblazing young healthtech pioneer, regularly dubbed the female Steve Jobs, really have outright lied about what her company was doing, hoodwinking scientists and super-wealthy investors? The answer turned out to be yes, and this podcast – which inspired the Emmy Award-winning TV drama of the same name – tells the flabbergasting story.
5. Ponzi Supernova
When it comes to financial fraudsters, one name towers above the rest: Bernie Madoff. A big beast of Wall Street who’d set up his securities firm way back in 1960 and even served as the chairman of the Nasdaq stock exchange. However, Madoff was also something else. He was the orchestrator of the biggest Ponzi scheme that’s ever existed, paying off his many investors with money from other investors rather than from any actual profits.
The scheme, which scammed everyone from Steven Spielberg and Kevin Bacon to ordinary people like farmers and teachers, was valued at a whopping $65 billion by the time Madoff was unmasked. Featuring prison interviews with the man himself, Ponzi Supernova is a definitive analysis of an outrageous con that took place in the heart of Wall Street.
Check out our true crime podcast hub for podcast features and interviews, plus full episodes of the Murdertown podcast.