It's somehow refreshing to see that the rich & powerful are no more capable of spotting a ruse than the rest of us. In a tale straight out of the niftiest grifter's playbook, businessman Terry Collins was relieved of £1 million by a couple of con artists who convinced him that he was about to buy the Ritz.
Property investor Mr. Collins made the acquaintance of a certain Tony Lee back in 2006. Mr Lee claimed to represent the Barclay brothers in their plan to sell the world-famous hotel they bought in 1995. Valued at £600 million, Mr. Lee was offering a bargain-basement deal of £200 million. Instead of this ludicrously low sum setting alarm bells off, Mr. Collins fell for it hook, line and sinker, pressing a Dutch business colleague for the money to pay a deposit to release 27 boxes of purchase documents.
Unfortunately, far from being an intermediary for two of Britain's richest individuals, Mr. Lee was in fact an unemployed trucker and undischarged bankrupt. His own "business partner", Patrick Dolan, was a similarly workshy construction manager. And those 27 boxes of purchase documents? A fiendishly simple MacGuffin.
The risible tale emerged this week during a case at the High Court, where the Dutch partner is suing Mr. Collins, holding him responsible for the money - which has, by all accounts, already been squandered. The con artists were ordered last year to return the cash, but as neither is exactly drawing much of an income, we imagine that it may be a while before the balance is settled.
There's a lesson in this for us all, kids. Not that we've learned anything - a nice gentleman just popped round Londonist Towers offering us the leasehold to Buck Palace for 500 quid! Now, where'd we put that chequebook?
Image courtesy of neilalderney123's Flickrstream