His Last Name Is Scheme : Charles Ponzi
More than 80 years after Charles Ponzi's spectacular rise and fall, his name is still synonymous with ''swindle.'' And although it is invoked to describe a variety of brazen, gargantuan rip-offs, it really applies only to swindles of a certain kind, longer than a one-shot deal but inherently limited in duration, in which people are promised windfall profits from can't-miss investments -- to be paid, when they are paid at all, only out of money collected from subsequent dopes and dupes.

There is another particular subtlety to the classic Ponzi scheme: not just anyone can pull one off; doing so requires cleverness, charm and charisma. That all these the original Ponzi had aplenty is clear from ''Ponzi's Scheme,'' Mitchell Zuckoff's entertaining portrait of the dapper rogue who persuaded 30,000 people, Bostonians
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