To a small group of pump-and-dump traders with no scruples, Jordan Belfort—the poster-child for the ‘Wolf of Wall Street’—is an idol; to most others, including the judge in his case, he’s a deadbeat who’s only paid a small fraction of the tens of millions he owes his victims in restitution.
Belfort is famous for being played by Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street—the already iconic 2013 film that definitively introduced us to the boiler-room beasts, and the over-the-top pump-and-dump schemers that are a black stain on the trading floor.
And Wednesday, during a garnishment hearing in New York City, a federal judge told Belfort’s lawyers that he’s not going to get away with being a deadbeat while he still owns $97 million in restitution to those he cheated. Belfort didn’t even bother to show up for the hearing, choosing instead to give a ‘motivational speech’ in Lithuania.
In 1999, Belfort pleaded guilty to security fraud and money-laundering. He was convicted of defrauding over 1,500 investors out of more than $200 million. He was sentenced to four years in prison and released in April 2008.
He was ordered to pay $110 million in restitution and 50 percent of his gross income. So far, 20 years later, he’s only paid $13 million. Prosecutors say that Belfort paid around $700,000 in restitution between 2007 and 2009, and $0 in 2010. The remaining $12.8 million was from property he relinquished when he was sentenced.
U.S. District Judge Ann Donnelly told Belfort’s lawyers that it was time to get payments back on track.
“It seems like he has some spare change lying around,” Donnelly said, adding that while she was “sorry to interrupt his busy schedule”, “he’s going to have to come here so we can get a grip on what’s going on.”
Belfort—a wolf to the end—has his lawyers battling with prosecutors over legal technicalities over what of his income is subject to garnishments, and in the meantime, he’s happy to keep his restitution entangled in red tape.
So how much is he really making these days, as the wolfish deadbeat tours the world giving motivational speeches? That’s where the legal argument ensues. Related: The Key Takeaways From Blockchain's Biggest Week
Belfort agreed to pay 50 percent of his earnings from the DiCaprio movie—but only after restraining orders were slapped on Bantam Books, Warner Brothers and Appian Way (DiCaprio’s film company).
But Belfort is also making money on his motivational tours and other business. Between 2013 and 2015, according to prosecutors, Belfort made some $9 million spreading his motivation around the world—but victims haven’t seen a penny of this in restitution. He is also said to be running a building design business on the side.
He says he’s reformed, though—even if he’s not paying his bill. Back in 2014, he said his motivational tours would be a form of redemption, while also letting him earn money to pay back the investors he scammed. The judge isn’t buying that though, now that all of his income is tied up in technicalities, and he can’t seem to find any ‘spare change’.
By David Craggen for Safehaven.com
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