Lou "The Fixer" Blonger (May 13, 1849–April 20, 1924), born Louis Belonger, was a Civil War veteran, saloonkeeper, mine operator and well-known gambler, but is most often noted as the organizer of an extensive ring of confidence tricksters that operated for more than 25 years in Denver, Colorado.
Born in Swanton, Vermont, Blonger was five years old when his family migrated to the lead mining village of Shullsburg, Wisconsin. As a young man, Blonger served uneventfully in the Union Army, then went west with his older brother Sam. Between 1866 and 1882, the brothers moved from one boomtown to the next, owning saloons, gambling and prospecting in Utah, Nevada and Colorado. The two served as marshals in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at the time of Wyatt Earp's Vendetta ride in Arizona and subsequent stay in that city.
Settling in the increasingly metropolian Denver area, by the 1890s the Blonger brothers were wealthy men. The source of much of their wealth was in several mining claims and business interests such as their popular Denver nightspot, the Elite Saloon. Much more wealth was probably attributable to an already long career of fraud and graft. Lou faced legal trouble now and again over the years from a few he had defrauded, but his organization operated largely unimpeded until he was in his early 70s.
With the departure from Denver of Jefferson "Soapy" Smith in 1896, Blonger consolidated the city's competing gangs of confidence men into a single organization. Central facilities set up to resemble stock exchanges or betting parlors were used alternately by several teams running so-called big store cons, convincing tourists to put up large sums of cash in order to secure delivery of promised stock profits or winning bets. The depiction of the wire con seen in the movie The Sting is a fairly accurate representation of such a confidence game.
The Blonger brothers were said to have long-standing ties to numerous Denver politicians and law enforcement officials, including the mayor and the chief of police -- over numerous administrations. For many years, bunco charges were rarely filed, and when they were, low bail bonds negotiated by Lou Blonger minimized the impact of such arrests on the profitability of the gang's operations.
In 1922, however, District Attorney Philip S. Van Cise bypassed the corrupt Denver establishment and used his own force, funded by donations solicited in secret from local citizens, to arrest 33 con men, including Blonger. In one of the largest and most publicized trials to that time, the "Bunco King" and his cohorts were convicted and sentenced to prison at Cañon City. Lou Blonger died in prison six months later.