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WHO WAS OSCAR HARTZELL?

Oscar was born in Madison County, Iowa, around the turn of the century. He started out as a farm boy and then became a deputy sheriff in Madison County. Around 1919 he began to nurture the Drake scam. He learned of it, allegedly, because his own Mother had been conned by the scheme. After tracking down the original perpetrator of the scam, he bought it from him – figuring that if his own mother could be taken in, then so could lots of other people.

Oscar began travelling around Iowa, and then the Midwestern states. At first he spoke only to people named Drake, telling them they were related to Sir Francis Drake and could share in the rediscovered fortune if they would give him money up front. Oscar claimed to be a distant relative who was concluding the legal formalities of obtaining the whole fortune.

As his success grew, he dropped the prerequisite of having the name Drake, and took investments from any and all. Over the next few years, he trained cronies to work for him, and his income grew proportionally.

In about 1924 Oscar came to London. For the remainder of the decade and into the early 1930s, he lived the high life on the money raised by his lackeys - some of whom thought the Drake Inheritance actually existed! He had several homes, and was a womaniser. Although he was already under investigation by Scotland Yard, it was the efforts of the U.S. postal authorities that led, in 1934, to him being deported at the request of the U.S. State Department.

Brought in handcuffs to Iowa, he was placed on trial and convicted. The rest of his life was spent in prison, first at the State penitentiary in Leavenworth, Kansas and then, when he was judged mentally incompetent, at a prison hospital, where he died young in 1943.

Despite all of this Oscar never once admitted the Drake Inheritance was a scam…

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