Jordan Belfort – wolf on Wall Street? No, scumbag

Bread and circuses

In 50 years of covering financial fraud, I have found few people as repugnant as Jordan Belfort, who is portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the current movie The Wolf of Wall Street.
  • In 50 years of covering financial fraud, I have found few people as repugnant as Jordan Belfort, who is portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in the current movie The Wolf of Wall Street.

Jordan Belfort is a convicted stock swindler. So is Amr (Tony) Elgindy, who late last year returned to live in San Diego County (he won’t say exactly where) after a long stretch in prison. When I talked with him, he seemed depressed — not unusual because he has had severe problems with bipolar disorder.

 Tony Elgindy exposed Jordan Belfort’s scams but ended up afoul of the law for market manipulation and racketeering.

Tony Elgindy exposed Jordan Belfort’s scams but ended up afoul of the law for market manipulation and racketeering.

But the ebullient Belfort gets big bucks as a motivational speaker, has written two successful books — The Wolf of Wall Street and Catching the Wolf of Wall Street — and is being portrayed by Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio in Martin Scorsese’s movie The Wolf of Wall Street. It came out Christmas day.

But financial fraud experts tell me Belfort was never known as the Wolf of Wall Street while his scams were going strong in the 1990s, and his firm was on Long Island, not Wall Street. An earlier movie, The Wolf of Wall Street, came out in 1929 (months before the big crash of that year).

Martin Scorsese directed The Wolf of Wall Street.

Martin Scorsese directed The Wolf of Wall Street.

I read both books, supposedly autobiographical, allegedly written by Belfort. In 50 years of covering financial fraud, I have found few people as repugnant as Belfort. In a rehab session, he introduces himself: “Hi, my name is Jordan, and I’m an alcoholic, a Quaalude addict, and a cocaine addict. I’m also addicted to Xanax and Valium and morphine and Klonopin and GHB and marijuana and Percocet and mescaline and just about everything else, including high-priced hookers, medium-priced hookers, and an occasional streetwalker.”

Yet, throughout the book, he talks about how much he loves his wife (his second, and they have since divorced) and his children, even though he romped with prostitutes in Switzerland while illegally stashing money in that tax haven, crashed a helicopter and sank an expensive yacht while high on drugs, drove his car through the garage with his daughter in the front seat, and shoved his wife down a flight of stairs. The government said he stole $200 million but only asked him to pay back $110 million. He has not done so, according to the Brooklyn United States attorney’s office.

The movie is said to be true to the book, with more than 500 uses of the word “fuck.” I refuse to see it, not because of the endless profanity, but because DiCaprio is playing the role of a self-professed scumbag who is clearly proud of his thefts.

Gary Weiss wrote a series of stories in the 1990s exposing the practices of stock-market boiler rooms.

Gary Weiss wrote a series of stories in the 1990s exposing the practices of stock-market boiler rooms.

Back in the late 1990s, Elgindy was one who helped blow Belfort’s vile stock-market scams out in the open. By tape-recording phone calls with Belfort, Elgindy could show that Belfort, who had been banned from the stock-brokerage business, was still swindling innocent victims — in fact, had a concealed interest in a brokerage Elgindy ran. The tapes were provided to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and to Gary Weiss of Business Week (now Bloomberg Businessweek), who wrote a blockbuster series in the late 1990s about stock-market boiler rooms and the junk they foisted on naive people and how the whole rancid business was heavily infiltrated by the Mafia.

To the best of his recollection, Elgindy believes he was betting that Belfort’s garbage stocks would go down while Belfort’s maggoty salespeople were trying to talk them up.

Belfort cofounded and ran perhaps the slimiest of the boiler rooms that dumped worthless penny stocks on naifs through high-pressure sales. Its name was Stratton Oakmont. (The names of many such pump-and-dump brokerages read like a list of British royalty — Monroe Parker, Hanover Sterling, Armstrong McKinley, ad nauseam.) In his halcyon days, Belfort was raking in $50 million a year. As Weiss pointed out, in 1994 Stratton agreed to pay Belfort $180 million if he would not compete with his firm, which he was leaving. The deal was signed one week before Belfort was banned from the securities business. Hmmm...

The ban didn’t stop him, as Elgindy’s tape recordings revealed. Finally, Belfort pleaded guilty to multiple securities violations, along with money laundering. But, astonishingly, his punishment was a mere 22 months in prison. The reason? In a perversion of normal procedure, he ratted on people who worked for him. It should be the other way around. “All his rat credits were high,” cracks Weiss, whose book, Born to Steal: When the Mafia Hit Wall Street, is considered the Bible on boiler-room stock-market scams.

Elgindy’s associates ratted on him.

As a young man, he worked for smelly brokerages and pushed Belfort-like junk. He admits being a scumbag. But then he switched to sniffing out stocks that were overpriced or fraudulent in some way. He would short those stocks (bet that they would go down) and also post his negative comments in chat rooms and on his own website. People paid big bucks for Elgindy’s opinions; he raked in so much that he bought a multimillion-dollar home in Encinitas. Elgindy shared his reports with government investigators.

But in a New York trial, he was convicted of a racketeering conspiracy. A Federal Bureau of Investigation agent stole confidential information about companies that were under government investigation and fed the facts to Elgindy in return for promises of cash and future employment. Elgindy used the information to short stocks for profit and spread the dirt over the internet in attempts to manipulate the stocks. Also, said the federal government, Elgindy tried extortion on some companies by threatening to spread the bad news unless he was given discounted shares.

A government prosecutor suggested that Elgindy, of Egyptian descent, tried to dump stocks in advance of 9/11 and perhaps had inside information on the attack. But there was no proof of that, and the judge tried in vain to keep such suggestions away from the jury. In his appeal, Elgindy argued unsuccessfully that the jury had been tainted.

He got 11 years in prison, including 2 for lying to federal officials when he tried to fly to San Diego under a phony name, with $25,000 in cash, $30,000 to $40,000 in jewelry, and prescription narcotics. He did this during a pretrial period when he was not allowed to travel.

The former FBI agent got six years. Elgindy says his prison stays in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Terminal Island were “brutal.” The government said he had to pay back $1.5 million. Compare that to Belfort’s $110 million. If Elgindy deserved 11 years, Belfort should have gotten 22 years, and there would have been no motivational speeches and no Scorsese/DiCaprio movie.

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Nice one Don - The worst ones never seem to pay back or pay for what they steal, how many people they destroy for fun.

shirleyberan: High-pressure salespeople at Belfort's Stratton Oakmont talked the elderly into buying worthless stocks that crashed, as they inevitably would. But in his two books, Belfort really doesn't talk about that very much. I don't think the man has a bit of remorse for stealing all the money he did. It is repulsive that this scumbag should be celebrated in a movie. Best, Don Bauder

"I refuse to see it...because DiCaprio is playing the role of a self-professed scumbag who is clearly proud of his thefts." Are you kidding me, Don? Better to blame a prurient nature and the 500 "[email protected]@ks." What did you think of "The Godfather(s)" or "Dallas Buyers Club" or "Scarface" (Hawks, not De Palma), or "Inglorious Basterds" or "Notorious" (Hitch, not Biggie) or "The French Connection" or "Blue Velvet" or for that matter any film with an unrepentant scumball, gangster, and/or Nazi at its core? Surely you must have encountered (and enjoyed) at least one of the aforementioned titles. Rule #1: the more reprehensible the villain the better the picture! What Marty does -- that you seem incapable of doing -- is paint an unbiased portrait of a shitheel. Not once does He judge or sentimentalize; He shows it like it is. Had you bothered to see the film before condemning it, Will Hays, Jr., you'd realize it's hardly a celebration of a life well spent. If the real-life Belfort shows no remorse about his actions, it sure in hell would have been disingenuous of Marty to depict it in any other manner than the one He chose. (Maybe a post-credit disclaimer card spelling out for simpletons just what a prick Belfort is would have helped.) As for the poor victims, there'd have been no books or movie were they not smaller-scale Belforts -- greedy, gullible mopes looking for their slice of pie on the sky. And if the guy is such a human slug, why waste precious hours of your life reading two books about him? You're almost as obsessed with Jordy as I am Marty! C'mon, Don. You know you want to see it. Any by all means, take the missus!

Scott Marks: First, of all the movies you mentioned: I have only seen The Godfather. It seems to me I saw a second one with the same characters in it, although several of them got shot and killed during the shows.

I do not find gangsters sympathetic. Not in the least. I particular do not find securities industry crooks sympathetic, particularly when they have organized crime ties. I have spent more than half my life exposing them and warning naive people about them -- alas, usually to no avail. Greed suffuses the victims, too. I think it was W.C. Field who observed, "You can't cheat an honest man."

(I love W.C. Fields. Do you ever review re-runs?)

I read both Belfort books and found him utterly repulsive. I am not seeing that movie. I didn't condemn the film; I just said after having read the books, I would never go see it.

It took me about 40 years to get around to seeing Casablanca -- on TV. I will wager you are SHOCKED, SHOCKED.

Best, Don Bauder

You said the secret word. W.C. Fields makes me laugh harder than just about anyone short of Groucho. I can watch "Man on the Flying Trapeze" on a loop and never stop laughing.

Scott Marks: You can go online and pick up the jokes from the days when W.C. Fields was on the Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy radio show. The badinage between Fields and McCarthy is classic. Best, Don Bauder

Scott Marks: Your mention of Groucho Marx reminds me of one of the best movies I have ever seen: "Night at the Opera." I was barely in grade school when I saw it and almost got sick laughing.

Maybe that is one reason why I am an opera lover. I enjoy the villains in opera -- (there is usually at least one) -- but only if they can sing well. The villains generally sing bass or baritone. Tenors and sopranos are very often innocent folks being abused by the evil ones (mezzos and bass/baritones.) There are many exceptions, of course. Rossini's ingenues were mezzos. The evil duke in Verdi's Rigoletto is a tenor but, true to form, the paid assassin Sparafucile is a bass. Best, Don Bauder

I, too, was smitten by the Marx Bros at an early age, but that's where we part. To date, the only opera I've ever seen is the one starring Chico, Harpo, and Groucho.

Scott Marks: You are a movie reviewer. I have seen some great operas done well in the movies: Magic Flute, Carmen, Don Giovanni, Der Rosenkavalier off the top of my head.

There are also the Metropolitan Opera performances done live in movie theaters. Last year we saw a wonderful Julius Caesar in Egypt. Earlier we saw a good Orfeo ed Euridice. Best, Don Bauder

"Had you bothered to see the film before condemning it, Will Hays, Jr.,"

Did you possibly intend to mention his father, Will H. Hays, Sr.? He was the first president (1922) of what is now the MPAA, and, as the former chairman of the Republican party, and a Presbyterian deacon to boot, who was a better choice than he to clean up those filthy 1920's films?

Will Hays at least saw the films he condemned, hence the "Jr." in reference to Don "If Movies Had to Rely on Me for Business We'd All Be in Our Living Rooms Listening to the Radio" Bauder.

Well, that makes perfect sense. I clearly missed it, surmising that you might be referencing the son, who co-wrote the 1949 musical comedy "You're My Everything", and received a nomination fro the Writers Guild of America. I stand infected.

Duhbya: Infected with what? I hope it is something our readers won't catch when reading your posts. Best, Don Bauder

Rest easy, it was just a mild case of ignorance. I'm thinking folks get afflicted with something far more serious when reading my double entendre attempts.

Duhbya: Yes, but I often catch severe cases of ignorance from some infected person. It seems to happen more as I get older. Best, Don Bauder

Scott Marks: I like that middle name you have for me. Yes, I can still remember sitting around the radio with the family in the late 1930s, and into the 1940s, listening to Edgar Bergen/Charlie McCarthy, Fred Allen, Henry Morgan -- comedians who were actually funny. I can also remember listening to the radio when the news of Pearl Harbor hit.

I did go to see the last two James Bond movies and found them tedious, partly because I had difficulty following them. I think Lawrence of Arabia is the best movie I have ever seen. Best, Don Bauder

Duhbya: Those films from the 1920s -- I assume not bowdlerized -- are making comebacks. Have you noticed how many of them are showing in New York theaters, and getting positive reviews in the New Yorker? I must see the genuine "Wolf of Wall Street," which came out in 1929, before the bears attacked the place. Best, Don Bauder

You're making this morning's excavation work so pleasurable for me, Don.

Scott Marks: The REAL Wolf of Wall Street from 1929 is one movie I would like to see. I saw a newsreel on the crash of 1929 (made not long after the event) and I found it fascinating -- especially the shots of the NYSE floor. Best, Don Bauder

And Turner Classic Movies (TCM) runs a lot of the early films.

Duhbya: Wow. I will have to find out if our satellite system can pick up TCM. I enjoy watching old Three Stooges films, but I don't know if we can pick them up on our system. Best, Don Bauder

Who is your provider? Dish, Direct TV? Or?

Scotty, send Don a DVD of the movie. Maybe he'll watch it if its free. Send me a free DVD too. Put the tab on your Reader expense account.

Scott Marks: Oh dear! How can I retain my innocence? Best, Don Bauder

Burwell: Now you are tempting me. Oh, wicked temptation!! Will I break down and watch this abominable movie just because it is free? It's against my ethical and economic principles, but..... Best, Don Bauder

Duhbya: We have Direct TV. Best, Don Bauder

Duhbya: Maybe I can find it. If I can watch the Three Stooges again I will be ecstatic. Best, Don Bauder

You know what Scoott - Enough of your bullying over movies. Don's opinion is as valid as anybody's. You don't get to force your mean mouth anywhere. We decided we Don't Want To See It. It's Free Will.

Take a chill-pill, sister Shirl! Don fights City Hall on a daily basis. Surely he can handle my attempt to put an end to this temporary rash of Scorsese-abuse. As for freeing Willy, see Don's vote for Best Film of 2013, "Blackfish." Be(a)st, Scott Marks.

Scott Marks: One good reason for believing that "Blackfish" is the best film of 2013 is having a short position in SeaWorld stock. I don't short stocks. Too much risk. I don't drive cars off cliffs as they do in the movies, either. Best, Don Bauder

shirleyberan: Scott is not bullying. He knows 100 times more about movies than I do. His opinion on movies is informed; mine isn't. Scott doesn't have a mean bone in his body. Best, Don Bauder

Scott Marks: That reminds me: I have to see how my Duke stock is doing in this downdraft -- or is it downdraught? Best, Don Bauder

Don - a movie is subjective. Scott is hilarious.

shirleyberan: Scott is not only funny; he is perceptive. Best, Don Bauder

didn't flag intentionally - Scotty - Is "New York New York" the musical (1977) with Liza Minelli and DeNiro that broke even at 14,000. when Marty learned what not to do?

I'm with you. Box office take defines quality. Enjoy "Transformers."

Scott Marks: You are so right. Box office receipts are the same as quality. That's true of pro sports, too. I know that is heresy on Super Bowl eve. Best, Don Bauder

shirleyberan: Believe it or not, I know who Liza Minelli is. I used to see movies starring her mother, Judy Garland. One was the Wizard of Oz, I believe. Another might have been Meet Me in St. Louis. Best, Don Bauder

shirleyberan: Wall Street adds zeros, rather than missing some. Best, Don Bauder

shirleyberan: Tell it to Scott. It will make him feel good. Best, Don Bauder

By the way Scottese - who leaked Quenton's new screenplay?

If I read between the lines it seems he thinks either Bruce Dern's agent or Michael Madsen's agent.

I'm sure if he finds out who he'll go mideval on their ass.

ImJustABill: You will have to tell me who Bruce Dern and Michael Madsen are. When the news blared the fact that Philip Seymour Hoffman had died, I had never heard of him. Best, Don Bauder

Supposedly they are 2 of the actors who were going to be in the next Tarantino film.

ImJustABill: OK. Thank you. Now what is a Tarantino film? Best, Don Bauder

Scott Marks: Snowden: now there is somebody I have heard about and read about, and quite frankly admire quite a bit. I think he has done the nation and the world a huge favor. Best, Don Bauder

shirleyberan: Who's Quenton? Best, Don Bauder

Quentin - don't be a weirdo Scottmeister.

shirleyberan: Except Scorsese makes more money than Scottsese. Best, Don Bauder

I think the thing here is the punishment should fit the crime. If an inner city crook can go to prison for thefts worth 10s of thousands of dollars, then shouldn't someone who steals hundreds of millions go to prison for a much, much, longer time?

ImJustABill: Of course. I will never forget when a Securities and Exchange Commission employee told me, "Knock off a gas station for $15 and go to prison for ten years. Steal $50 million in a stock market scam and get off completely." I must add, however, that the sentence given Madoff was a step in the right direction. Best, Don Bauder

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