2. Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Bridge

You might not be surprised to know that the Brooklyn Bridge, an iconic New York City structure, has been “sold” more than once by many con men since it was completed in 1883. One of the most famous of these con men was George C. Parker who would swindle people into “buying” the bridge at least two times a week for years.

Parker would prey on unsuspecting tourists, offering to let them build a fake tollbooth where they could collect all the tolls for themselves. Parker would usually ask for anywhere between $50 to $50,000. Some people even started to build their own tollbooths on the bridge before the police had to tell them they had been scammed.

Headline from a newspaper clipping that read "Brooklyn Bridge's 'seller' sent to Sing Sing for life"
Image via Wikimedia Commons

Eventually his work caught up with him and earned him three counts of fraud. The third time landed him in Sing Sing Prison for eight years where he died in 1936. His antics live on in the famous American slogan: “If you believe that, then I have a bridge to sell you.

Parker wasn’t the only one who “sold” the famous landmark. Many other con artists would do the same, swindling poor passersby. Another notable seller was William McCloudy, a.k.a. “I.O.U O’Brien” who sold the bridge in 1901. For the sale, he was convicted of grand larceny and served two and half years in Sing Sing. The first man to attempt to sell the bridge Peaches O’Day. He sold the bridge for $200 in 1899. The gullible citizen received a bill of sale reading “One bridge in good condition.”