How Texas Conman Billie Sol Estes Brought Scandal to Washington

“Notorious Texas con man.” “Well-connected wheeler-dealer.” “Flamboyant Texas swindler.” Author of a “Texas-sized legacy of scandals.” These were the headlines that graced newspapers from West Coast to East in 2013 when Billie Sol Estes died at the age of 88 in his home in Granbury, Texas.

It was just over 51 years since the Texan had embarked on a more notorious tour across the country’s front pages, but that time had done nothing to soften his reputation.

Where there are people transacting business—humans with all their foibles and vices—there will be bad behavior. Ponzis and pyramids and a rainbow of other fraudulent schemes. But Billie Sol, as he was commonly referred to, added a little extra flair to his multi-million-dollar fraud that came to light in the early 1960s. He not only bilked investors out of their hard-earned cash, but he did so in such a charismatic, well-connected, and unapologetic way that it infected politicians and presidents and resulted in several resignations and seven suspicious deaths.

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