What lies on other side of Wolf’s Wall Street

Dec 29 2013, 13:36 IST
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Leonardo DiCaprio Leonardo DiCaprio
SummaryFor many of Belfort’s victims, the movie brings back old pain of being cheated.

The Wolf of Wall Street is about to have his day. The Martin Scorsese film about the Wolf — Jordan Belfort in real life, played by Leonardo DiCaprio — tells how Belfort swindled thousands of investors out of more than $100 million as head of a penny-stock boiler room in the 1990s.

The film is an “almost nonstop parade of sex, drugs, nudity”, according to the online magazine Deadline Hollywood.

Left untold is the story of the victims, disparaged as “garbage” by DiCaprio’s character in the movie. For many of them — small businessmen and people like Steve Orton, a State Farm insurance agent from Alpharetta, Georgia — the publicity for the film has brought back the old pain. Still, Orton said, while “it kind of sickens me, I really feel like I owe it to myself to complete the circle to see it”.

Ken Minor, a real estate appraiser in Gilroy, California, said the experience “hurt me pretty bad”. He drew on a home equity line of credit to buy stocks with Belfort’s brokerage firm, Stratton Oakmont, and still has not repaid it. “I’m not a rich guy,” he said, “and I’ve been paying for it ever since.” Will he go to the movie? “If I see it,” Minor replied, “it will be for free.”

Stratton was shut down by industry regulators in 1996, and Belfort was sentenced to four years in prison for securities fraud and money laundering. He was released from federal prison after serving 22 months, in April 2006. A little more than a year later, he published his tell-all about the go-go years, The Wolf of Wall Street. He followed up in 2009 with Catching the Wolf of Wall Street. According to court records, Belfort received $940,500 for the movie rights to his two books.

At Belfort’s sentencing in 2003, Judge John Gleeson of US District Court in New York said that Belfort owed investors $110 million for his crimes and that he must divert 50 per cent of his gross monthly revenue to a victims’ fund beginning one month after his release from prison. The government has already distributed $10.4 million to investors garnered from property Belfort gave up in his plea agreement. And after serving restraining notices on Belfort’s publishers in 2007, the government reached an agreement with Belfort that it would receive half of the book proceeds.

In addition, Stephen P Harbeck, president of the Securities Investor Protection

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