The Interview of a Lifetime: The Granddaughter of the Ponzi Whistleblower

GUEST BLOGGER

Cora Bullock
Asst. Editor, Fraud Magazine

It may seem strange to blog about an event that happened April 25, but I couldn’t write anything before we revealed the Sentinel Award recipient, William H. McMasters, at the 22nd Annual ACFE Fraud Conference and Exhibition last month. It felt exciting to write the article before the public knew and to write with a historical bent since the ACFE had never awarded the Sentinel posthumously. Once I flew to Baltimore to interview Faith Dickerson, Ph.D., his only grandchild, I realized how truly deserving McMasters was of this long overdue acknowledgement.

Left to right: Charles Ponzi's office on School Street in Boston in 1920 and Ponzi's office today. Present-day photo courtesy of Allan Bachman.

I originally had planned to fly in and out of Baltimore in one day, but I’m very glad Kevin Taparauskas, CFE, ACFE director of marketing and events, strongly encouraged me to spend the night there. I got up at 4 a.m. and due to delayed flights, barely made the 3 p.m. interview. Spending the night allowed me to really delve into the extensive archives that Dr. Dickerson had. They were not wrapped in acid-free paper, to be touched only with white gloves, and the casualness with which she handled the papers struck me – this was a part of her family history, not some old article in a dusty book. How cool is that?

Dr. Dickerson initially seemed a little bemused by the attention the ACFE was showering upon her. But, once she began combing through those archives, it became clear that she found the story, and the man, just as fascinating as I did. His archives were mind-boggling – everything from his 1874 birth record to his marriage license, photos from his honeymoon to poems he had written to Dr. Dickerson, plus, of course, his multiple articles on taking down the notorious Charles Ponzi. I can barely remember where my kids’ birth certificates are, let alone my grandfather’s. Honeymoon photos? Stuffed somewhere in some cabinet. In the event of a fire, I would be digging for papers and photos while my house burned down around me.

Those materials provided an invaluable snapshot to a shrewd man who was ahead of his time. He knew important people, but wasn’t starstruck by them. He didn’t allow Ponzi’s fancy pants ways to throw him off the scent of a fraud. Even though McMasters was no accountant, he still figured out that Ponzi’s returns made no sense.

Dr. Dickerson was an incredibly gracious host, allowing a stranger to paw through her grandfather’s things. Plus, one of her quotes provided the perfect kicker to my article – gold in the writing world! Read the article, “The Man Who Time (Almost) Forgot” in latest edition of Fraud Magazine.