Claude Stemp, a Vietnam veteran, lost $62,000 in a 1996 Stratton swindle, and had to take out a second mortgage on his house to afford care for his ailing mother. When he saw the fictional movie "Boiler Room" a few years later, Stemp said, "I just about cried."
Many of the swindled await their money
Despite Belfort's lucrative movie and book deals, and earnings from a new career as a motivational speaker, many of these victims are still waiting for restitution.
When Belfort was sentenced in 2003 to four years in prison, Judge John Gleeson ordered him to pay about $110.4 million to a victims fund, in installments equal to 50% of his monthly gross income, after his release from jail. If any major changes in his financial circumstances took place, the percentage Belfort had to pay could be adjusted up or down.
After I asked for an update on the fund in early October, lawyers in the office of Loretta E. Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, replied that Belfort had only contributed about $11.6 million to the victims' fund so far -- about one-tenth of the required total.
In a court filing with many details about Belfort's current income whited out, Lynch's office asked Gleeson to find Belfort in default, saying that according to his tax returns and other available information, the payments he has been making are "insufficient." They said that in 2011, for instance, Belfort paid $21,000 in restitution, although he made more than $1 million for the motion picture rights to his memoir, as well as more income from a motivational speaking corporation he half-owns.
Belfort's attorneys responded that he doesn't deny he still owes money to victims, but that his position is his obligation to pay 50% of his income to them ended when his term of "supervised release" from prison expired in April 2009. They said that for the past two years, he's been trying to arrange a "forbearance" agreement with the government to "pay 100% of the profits of the movie and the two books," but that his offer has been turned down.
"Before you accuse me of anything, you should learn the facts," Belfort said in an e-mail last week. "I have been trying to settle this case forever and have been completely stonewalled. I can even show you the settlement offer from the government, on their letterhead, asking for only 50% of my books, after I offered 100%."
On Friday afternoon, the government asked to withdraw its pending motion to hold Belfort in default on his payments to victims. Oral argument in the case had been scheduled to begin Nov. 22. In a court document, Beth Schwartz, Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said the delay would give both sides "an opportunity to explore a resolution" of certain issues, and that "Mr. Belfort joins in this request."
The movie, originally scheduled for mid-November, is now set for release on Christmas Day. Meanwhile, the website for "Jordan Belfort's Wolf of Wall Street Sales Training," his motivational speaking company, features a video of DiCaprio doing a bit of speaking himself.
"There is nothing quite like Jordan's public speaking and his ability to train and empower young entrepreneurs," DiCaprio says. "Jordan stands as a shining example of the transformative qualities of ambition and hard work, and in that regard, he is a true motivator."
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