An Italian immigrant to the US in 1918, Charles Ponzi (real first name Carlo) told friends if they invested with him, he would double their investment within 90 days.
His scheme involved using new money to pay off older investors, and the entire business was being run at a loss. Ponzi's scheme was exposed in 1920, and he spent roughly a decade in prison on federal and state charges before ultimately being deported.
Ponzi Schemes are of course alive and well today. (See Bernie Madoff slide.)