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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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100 years ago in Spokane: Scammer stopped before separating railroad worker from savings

 (SR archives)
(SR archives)

A smooth-talking bunco artist nearly separated Corrado Fantozzi, 25, an Italian railroad worker, from his life savings.

An Italian man named Antonio Regis befriended Fantozzi by asking the way to the Catholic church. While strolling through the Spokane streets, Regis told him that he had recently inherited $18,000 from an uncle who owned a gold mine. He told Fantozzi that he was instructed to distribute the $18,000 to Spokane’s poor, but he needed help in carrying out his dead uncle’s philanthropic desires. He needed someone who spoke English well.

Fantozzi said he would be willing to help. Regis agreed, but said he needed assurance that Fantozzi “had money of his own.”

“For all of the money you can show me, I will give you an equal amount, in addition to $1,500 for your services,” said Regis. “Return with the money, but tell no one, and I will make you rich.”

Fantozzi went back to his railroad section job over the border in Montana and withdrew his savings, $1,000, from the bank. He excitedly told all of his friends about the deal. He was so excited he could “hardly eat or sleep.”

But one of his Montana friends smelled a rat. He was unable to talk Fantozzi out of the scheme, but he convinced Fantozzi to let him come along to the upcoming rendezvous with Regis in Spokane.

When they got off the train, Regis and another man were waiting. Fantozzi went with them to a hotel room, but his friend hung back and contacted a patrolman. They went to the hotel room, confronted Regis and the officer arrested him.

Regis did not have $18,000 to distribute. He had a grand total of $44.15. He also “spoke good English.”

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