November 29, 2023

Few con men are as notorious as Barry Minkow. As a 1980s California high school sophomore, Minkow founded ZZZZ Best carpet cleaners, which grew at such an astronomical rate that it swiftly turned the 16-year-old into a local (and then national) celebrity. The problem was, the entire operation was a mob-funded Ponzi scheme, and it eventually netted Minkow 25 years behind bars. He only served seven and a half years of that sentence, during which he converted from Judaism to Christianity—a transformation that led him, once released, to become a pastor at San Diego’s Community Bible Church, where he again attracted media notice as a heartening redemption story.

Spoiler alert: He wasn’t. During his time preaching at the pulpit, Minkow embezzled over $3 million from his holy place of employment; committed insider trading, libel, and extortion; and founded the Fraud Discovery Institute, an outfit designed to exploit his criminal expertise to uncover corporate fraud but which wound up functioning as a vehicle for perpetrating more of it. Additional jail time ensued, as did an autobiographical 2018 movie called Con Man featuring James Caan, Mark Hamill, Talia Shire, and Ving Rhames as “Peanut,” a prison inmate who Minkow claimed helped “anchor my faith.” That vanity project also starred Minkow as himself—yet another example of the inveterate con man’s consuming hunger for the spotlight, which was only matched by his lust for money.

King of the Con, a three-part…

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