The Classic Spanish Prisoner Con is 500 years old and is still alive and kicking
Who would have thought that the well-known classic Spanish Prisoner con is alive and well after more then 500 years! (Don’t confuse this with the Spanish Prisoner film, no relation, or almost) No one really knows the origin of this Spanish Prisoner Con, and there are several versions, but this is how I imagined it to be.
The year of 1469 BC was a wonderful year for Spain. This was because on 18th October of 1469, Ferdinand of Aragon married Isabella of Castile in Valladolid, thus uniting the Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon into a united Spain.
The mystery man at the Tavern
580 km away, in the town of Carmona, near the city of Sevilla (present day Seville) Juan Pedro, a serious man with a potbelly was drinking wine in the local tavern, El Estafa. He was a fairly successful merchant with a loving wife and 2 teenage daughters.
Today like most days Juan Pedro was drinking alone when a stranger approached his table, “Excuse me, Señor Juan Pedro. I need your help.”
Juan Pedro was startled.
“Please, may I sit down?” implored the stranger.
Juan Pedro had seen the stranger a few days before in the same tavern. He thought, what a mysterious man he was, who sat in a dark corner all by himself, much as Juan himself liked to drink alone.
The stranger quickly took his seat, “My name is Diego Fernando…”
Before he could finish, Juan Pedro asked, “How did you know my name?”
“I’ve observed you for awhile and determined that you’re an honest and trustworthy man.”
Juan Pedro smiled.
“I must speak quickly for I have to leave shortly. My master Don…I can’t reveal his name or he will be killed. My master is a prisoner of a wicked baron in Valladolid. His identity is not known even to the baron or else he’ll be tortured to reveal the treasures he’s secretly buried. Time is running out. It’s a matter of time before his real identity is revealed.”
“Who is this terrible baron?” Juan was curious.
“Hush,” admonished Diego. “The success of our mission depends on utmost secrecy. You cannot tell anyone, not even your wife. Can I trust you, Juan Pedro?” Diego Fernando looked directly at Juan’s face even as he grasped both his hands.
“Of course, you can,” Juan said quickly. Diego Fernando’s kind eyes and polite manner convinced Juan that the story was genuine.
“I’ve raised 10,000 Silver Real coins (equivalent to present day $500,000), and will need another 10,000 silver coins to buy my master’s freedom. My master is a generous man, he’ll gladly pay 20 fold to anyone who helps.”
“I don’t have that much money, though I can maybe put up 1,000 silver coins.” Even as he said that, he was imagining receiving 20,000 silver coins in return!
“That’s ok,” Diego assured him, “I can raise the balance elsewhere.”
“Wait here, I’ll be back shortly.” Juan hurried home to collect the money. He did not tell his wife anything.
Back at the tavern, Juan handed over his money to Diego.
As Diego put the coins in his bag, he looked seriously at Juan and said, “Again, my friend, can I trust you to keep this a secret, for my master’s life is now in your hands?”
Juan nodded his agreement.
“I must leave now. I’ll be back in 2 weeks.”
Ricardo Poto joined the scheme
Exactly 2 weeks later they met again in a far corner of the Tavern.
In a low whisper, Diego began, “We have a problem.”
“What’s the problem?” Juan asked, alarmed.
“My master freedom’s price has been raised to 15,000 Silver Real coins. But he’ll be paying 100 fold in return.”
“I, I don’t know …”, Juan Pedro was clearly confused. For this was not what he expected.
“Excuse me,” someone said in a low voice and came over to their table, “I’m sorry, I’ve overheard your conversation about an investment that returns 100 fold. May I sit down?”
“My name is Rodrigo Garcia.” Now Rodrigo Garcia was not a stranger to Juan Pedro. He had arrived in town about a month earlier and was doing odd jobs. In fact he had done some work for Juan Pedro.
Juan Pedro’s impression of Rodrigo was one who was friendly, hardworking and trustworthy.
As Rodrigo sat down, Diego explained again the whole story in a quiet whisper.
Slowly, Rodrigo took out his purse and handed over 100 coins, “That’s all my lifetime savings.”
Both now looked at Juan Pedro.
“Wait here,” Juan said and hurried out.
He came back with 2,000 silver coins and handed them to Diego.
“Keep this gold bar as security”
All 3 met again according to plan. There was another problem. The freedom price had been raised again! It was now 20,000 Silver Real coins!
Juan was clearly disappointed and began to doubt whether all this was real. Meekly Juan said, “Perhaps I should take back my investment.”
“I understand your doubt,” Diego said sympathetically. He took out a gold bar, and said he was willing to let Juan hold it as security.
“I, I, I’ll have to check the gold, you know, if you don’t mind,” Juan was apologetic.
“Of course,” Diego said and cut off a tiny piece and gave it to Juan.
Juan quickly went out to the local gold trader, Maxima Oro. It was genuine. In fact it was pure gold.
Juan returned, and invested another 5,000 silver coins. Diego put the gold bar into a leather pouch and handed it to Juan. “Please do not show it to anyone, I need to trust you on this.” Juan nodded.
Diego said good bye and quickly disappeared into the night.
A broken man
After 2 weeks when Diego did not returned, Juan was beginning to feel anxious. Then it occurred to him that he had not seen Rodrigo these past 2 weeks.
Casually Juan asked the bartender about Rodrigo. The bartender said Rodrigo had left town the next morning after Juan’s last meeting him and the stranger.
He wasn’t too worried as he still held the gold bar. But there was a nagging doubt that something was not right.
So he took the gold to Maxima. Maxima examined the gold bar carefully, “This is just a gold colored piece of bronze.”
Juan Pedro turned pale, and slumped into a chair. He realized he had committed his wife and daughters to slavery. For not only had he lost all his savings, he now owed his creditors for the goods he carried in this shop. And worse, his final investment of 5, 000 Silver Real coins was borrowed from the ruthless town baron, pledging his wife and daughters as security.
Juan Pedro was very still. He had died of heart failure, a completely broken man.
Today, the same Spanish Prisoner Con is repeated everyday on the internet. Read here the 5 easy ways to avoid scams online, just remember the acronym A.SCAM
Also, please read a list of the latest internet scams.
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