Tricky Vic - An Impossibly Good Con Man - Tricky Vic "Sells" the Eiffel Tower...Twice

The Eiffel Tower as it appeared at the Exposition Universelle, in Paris, during 1889. Photo likely taken by Louis-Antonin Neurdein (1846-1914), a member of the French Society of Photographers. Online via the Library of Congress.


When World War I interrupted Lustig's money-box scams, on cruise ships, the "Count" remained in America where he found plenty of people to con during the war years.

After the war, Victor was back in France. Able to understand French, he read an article about problems with the Eiffel Tower. It was beginning to rust, and the people of Paris did not have a maintenance fund to keep it in good shape. Some Parisians even talked about tearing it down or moving it to a different location.

With these facts in mind, Lustig had an idea for a new con. He would try to sell the Eiffel Tower to an unsuspecting “mark.”

How in the world could he sell a Parisian landmark which he didn’t own?

Lustig, the master of aliases, would give himself a new title— Deputy General Director of the Ministry of Posts and Telegraphs—and then invite several scrap dealers to a confidential meeting he’d hold at a Paris hotel. He’d offer the Eiffel Tower to the highest bidder who would then purchase the aging landmark, take it apart and sell the disassembled metal as scrap.

In May of 1925, when Paris itself was recovering from the war, Victor turned his idea into reality.

Using faked government stationery, which he had a forger create for him, Lustig invited around six scrap-metal dealers to a confidential meeting at the Hotel de Crillon in Paris. Everything seemed on the up-and-up to these individuals (who’d been “selected” to “bid” on the Eiffel-Tower tear down because they were honest businessmen).

After the scrap dealers arrived at the hotel, Lustig revealed why he’d invited them to a meeting. He urged the men to keep quiet about the plan to tear-down the tower since not all Parisians would be happy about removing the famous-but-aging landmark.

Despite their good reputations, however, the potential bidders did not realize they were actually dealing with a chap who was completely dishonest. He had no more authority to sell the Eiffel Tower than they did.

The unwitting men traveled to the tower, in a rented limousine, for a tour with Lustig. The “Count’s” real motivation, for the visit, was to assess which scrap-metal dealer was probably the most gullible and excited about the project.

“Tricky Vic,” as he is known today, asked the men to submit their bids, to purchase the Tower. He reminded them to keep quiet about the purchase process since the whole project was a state secret.

Although he accepted bids from everyone, Lustig had already narrowed his choice to one man—Andre Poisson. Not a member of the inner circle of Parisian businessmen, Poisson thought his ownership of the Eiffel Tower would substantially increase his standing in the city.

What it did, in fact, was to substantially decrease the money in his bank account. The amount of funds he actually paid, to buy the Tower, was even more than he'd originally envisioned because of an interesting turn of events.

Poisson’s wife was suspicious of Lustig and his plan. Who was this government official, she wondered? Why was he keeping government affairs so secret? Why was he insisting that the deal come together so quickly?

Learning of Madame Poisson’s concerns, Lustig arranged for another meeting. He “confessed” that his job as a government official did not pay enough for him to sustain the lifestyle he enjoyed. He needed to supplement his income, in other ways, which caused him to be discrete about his government dealings.

Poisson immediately concluded that the Deputy General Director of the Ministry of Posts and Telegraphs was open to ... accepting bribes. And ... Poisson wanted the Eiffel-Tower deal so badly that he’d be willing to make a separate payment, to a corrupt government official, beyond the cost of buying the Tower.

Lustig’s initial idea had thus expanded into ... a con within a con.

After receiving the purchase price of the Tower, together with additional funds for the bribe, Lustig and his “secretary”—another con man known as “Dan Collins”—quickly boarded a train bound for Vienna. Their suitcase was stuffed with Poisson’s cash.

What happened after Poisson reported this criminal activity? Nothing ... because Andre Poisson was apparently too embarrassed to report he’d been so badly duped.

Since this con had worked so well, Lustig decided to try it again.

About a month later, he returned to Paris and invited another group of men to another meeting where he tried to sell the Eiffel Tower for scrap. This time, however, the victim reported the con, to the police, before Lustig could close the deal and pocket the money.

Newspapers broke the story but, before any gendarme could arrest them, Lustig and Collins had fled Paris and traveled to ... America.

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Author: Carole D. Bos, J.D. 5197stories and lessons created

Original Release: Aug 17, 2015

Updated Last Revision: Jun 02, 2016

To cite this story (For MLA citation guidance see easybib or OWL ):

"Tricky Vic "Sells" the Eiffel Tower...Twice" AwesomeStories.com. Aug 17, 2015. May 27, 2020.
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