The sordid saga of high-living financial scammer Darren Berg, now doing 18 years in federal prison, will be revisited Sept. 8 on CNBC’s ‘American Greed.’

Share story

High-living financial scammer Darren Berg, now doing 18 years in federal prison, has faded from the local headlines six years after his mortgage-buying empire collapsed into bankruptcy and indictments for fraud.

But the sordid saga will be revisited Sept. 8 on CNBC’s “American Greed,” which features a 20-minute look at Berg’s free-spending lifestyle (the posh Mercer Island house, the two yachts, the airplane), his artful chicanery with the Meridian Mortgage funds, and his obsession with building a fleet of high-class tour buses using tens of millions in misappropriated money.

Drawing heavily on reporting at the time by The Seattle Times and Puget Sound Business Journal, American Greed lays out Berg’s history of financial scandal, dating back to college fraternity days at the University of Oregon.

Berg himself is not interviewed — now 54, he’s not due to be released from the low-security federal facility in Lompoc, Calif., for at least a decade. But his boyish charm is on display in a video Meridian recorded showing him making his pitch to potential investors in March 2009. Grinning, he tells them grandiosely, “I’m actually having fun in this economy. …There’s nothing funner than being right.”

Most Read Stories

Sale! Save over 90% on digital access.

In fact, as the show explains, the easy-lending climate and the subsequent Great Recession had played havoc with Berg’s business, and the collapse of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme would indirectly trigger the collapse of Berg’s as well.

Despite some over-dramatic narration read by actor Stacy Keach, American Greed does a good job of explaining the mechanisms involved in Berg’s fraud — for instance, how he fooled auditors by setting up dozens of post-office boxes in the names of people whose mortgage debt he’d supposedly bought.

Speaking up for those defrauded by Berg is perhaps his most famous investor, mystery writer J.A. Jance., who delivers the show’s most memorable line: “How could you be such a lowlife scum?”