Conman – The man who sold the Brooklyn bridge

Hello, good morning, good afternoon or good evening. How are you? Who can believe that it is March already? Time flies, doesn’t it? Soon it will be Christmas again.

Today I am going to tell you the story of a famous con man. First of all, I need to explain what a con man is. “Con” is short for “confidence”, but a con man is not just a confident man. Oh no, a con man is a person who lies, cheats or tricks you to get something they want. They will make you believe something that isn’t true and, usually, they will try to get some money from you in an ingenious way. Ingenious means very clever or inventive. So they try to take money from you in clever and inventive ways.

The man I want to tell you about was called George C. Parker and he lived in the USA. He was born in 1860 and died in 1936 and he is famous because he sold something that didn’t belong to him. He conned tourists to get their money. The thing he sold is interesting though. He sold the Brooklyn bridge and other famous landmarks in New York (a landmark is a famous building or attraction). The unbelievable thing about George C. Parker is that he said that he sold the Brooklyn Bridge twice a week for many years!

In 1883, he met a tourist in New York and told him that he was the owner of the Brooklyn Bridge. He said that he had built it, but now he wanted to sell it and move to another city. He explained to the tourist that anyone who owned the bridge could install tolbooths and charge the people a fee to use the bridge. A tolbooth is a little building where someone sits and collects money – just like you see on some roads nowadays. Of course, the tourist saw an opportunity and thought he could become rich by buying this bridge and putting a tolbooth there. He gave George C. Parker the money and was given a contract to show he had bought the bridge. The next day, when he was building a tolbooth, the police came and explained to him that he didn’t actually own the bridge. He had been conned.

George sold the bridge twice a week for many years. Sometimes he even put up “For sale” signs on the bridge. He was arrested 3 times for fraud. Fraud is a crime. It is when you give someone the wrong information or lie to them. The third time he was arrested he was sent to prison for the rest of his life.  During his career, he also sold the Statue of Liberty and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

So, remember, if you are ever in New York and someone tries to sell you a bridge … they are probably a conman!

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