Need to make some extra money? Why not try tricking people into thinking you are a prince of a fictional country? That is what a Scottish con artist by the name of Gregor MacGregor did in the early 1820s. The former military officer claimed to have been made the ruler of a complete fictional Central American nation called Poyais.
Macgregor surfaced in London in around 1821 and started to spread stories of a new lush paradise called Poyais. On the Caribbean coastline a place of untapped wealth: a way for everyone to start a new life. It had gold and streams and rolling hills: beauty. All the farmland was fertile and the locals? They were friendly and hardworking people. There was only one problem, this land did not exist at all.
It was all a clever money making scheme by Macgregor! He had forged all the official documents he needed to make it seems real and even had a full-length guidebook. This way he was able to sell fake Poyais bonds, land certificates, and even a settlement scheme.The latter was a complete disaster which caused the death of over 150 people.
You see Macgregor was not a brilliant mastermind – but he had the skill to promote himself and convince people. He was able to convince a native Indian king to grant him some 8 million acres of territory along Central America’s Mosquito Coast: a complete undeveloped dangerous jungle. But Macgregor reinvented into the lush land called Poyais. He marketed himself as a Prince looking for investment – and quickly found himself in London’s circle of aristocrats. He even started printing Poyais dollars and let people convert all their lives savings!
Even when the first settlement went out there – finding nothing & being nearly entirely wiped out by tropical disease, even when he was still not brought to justice! He was finally jailed in 1825 for fraud but was acquitted due to lack of evidence, he even resurfaced in 1827 sold more bogus land bonds to the region of £800,000 and retired to Venezuela… having never been found guilty of a single crime.