When it comes to luxury real estate, admit it, you like to watch
A look at a few of history’s more imaginative real estate entrepreneurs
The low-life high life
A familiar face on the international poker circuit, Achilleas Kallakis called himself The Don. He docked a yacht in Monaco and flew to it in his private jet. For shorter trips, he kept a fleet of Bentleys on hand. Kallakis had also amassed a real estate portfolio worth well over a billion dollars. The problem was, he’d built his property empire on what might charitably be called creative bookkeeping. According to Britain’s Serious Fraud Office, a complex investment scam orchestrated by Kallakis in the mid-2000s bamboozled one bank alone out of about $1 billion. Earlier this year, he was sentenced to 11 years behind bars.
No tenants allowed
When New York photographer Michael Tammaro advertised for a roommate on Craigslist last year, he received a great deal of interest. His loft was located in trendy Chelsea, it had high ceilings and mod furnishings, and the rent was only $1,800 a month. As applicants poured in, Tammaro created an elaborate fantasy world, charming them and stalling them and fleecing them to the tune of about $200,000. As many as 45 people are said to have signed up for the sublet, but there are likely to have been more who didn’t come forward. In June, Tammaro received a sentence of three to nine years for his scam.
Fake new world
Not content with devising an imaginary sublet, 19th-century Scottish adventurer Gregor MacGregor fabricated an entire country—the Central American Republic of Poyais—and made himself head of state. Using his talents as a raconteur and tireless self-promoter, MacGregor moved through U.K. society courting investors and would-be emigrants, raising $300,000—before reports came back from settlers who sailed to the country and found it wasn’t there. MacGregor fled to France, kept up the scam and, in an effort to evade prosecutors there, moved to Venezuela. He died in Caracas in 1845, just three weeks after his 59th birthday, a free man.