“The Wolf of Wall Street”: The Other Side of the Story


Gregory Coleman
Special Agent, Asset Forfeiture/Money Laundering Team, FBI

The Academy Award-nominated film “The Wolf of Wall Street” has garnered nearly as much controversy as it has critical acclaim. The film’s depiction of Stratton Oakmont founder Jordan Belfort’s outrageous lifestyle, fueled by sex, drugs and greed, makes for an entertaining – and wild – ride, but noticeably leaves out a key element in his scheme: the victims. This glamourized version of events has left many feeling as though Scorsese’s interpretation glorifies Belfort and excuses his actions, despite their devastating effect on numerous families and individuals.

Attendees at the 25th Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference will have the opportunity to hear two other sides of Jordan Belfort’s story not depicted in the movie. FBI Special Agent Gregory Coleman, who led the investigation into money laundering that was Belfort’s eventual downfall, will share his account of events during Part One of a special two-part session. During Part Two, former U.S. Attorney Joel M. Cohen, who led the prosecution against Belfort, will share his viewpoint.

For those unfamiliar with the story, Belfort founded stock brokerage firm Stratton Oakmont, a boiler room, making millions off penny stocks in a pump and dump scheme. Convicted of money laundering and securities fraud in 2003, he received a four-year prison sentence (served 22 months) and was ordered to repay $110.4 million to a victim compensation fund.

We were able to catch up with Special Agent Coleman about his thoughts on Belfort and his hopes for his session:

What was your first impression upon meeting Jordan Belfort?

My first impression upon meeting Jordan Belfort was a mixture of curiosity, relief and anticipation. Curiosity because I had learned so much about him during the investigation but had never actually spoken to him face to face; relief that his day of reckoning had finally come; and anticipation of what the future would bring with the possibility of Belfort pleading guilty and cooperating. To me, Belfort represented a key that could unlock and uncover many more criminal conspiracies, and I was re-energized by the thought of going after the next wave of fraud participants.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about the Belfort case?

One of the biggest misconceptions about the Stratton Oakmont/Jordan Belfort case is that Belfort’s activities, or the activities of others like him, caused or contributed to the financial crisis that began in 2008. The recent financial crisis began at least six to seven years after the Belfort investigation, and prosecution had been fully adjudicated and was the result of conduct and financial transactions that bear no resemblance to the crimes undertaken by Belfort. In addition, although Belfort’s frauds caused more than $200 million in losses and were devastating on a personal level to many victim investors (it was one of the largest frauds of its kind at the time), the frauds were more “local” in nature and could probably never cause the type of financial meltdown that was experienced in the financial crisis.

What do you most hope attendees will take away from your session?

I hope the attendees take away a better understanding of the efforts that went into investigating and prosecuting the complex, multi-national, securities fraud and money laundering operation of Jordan Belfort, Daniel Porush and the other corrupt individuals at Stratton Oakmont. 

Read more about the educational sessions at the ACFE Global Fraud Conference on FraudConference.com.