RECOMMENDED READING: Fortune Magazine On The Manipulations Of Recidivist Con Man Barry Minkow — And Deseret News On The Sentencing Of Utah Ponzi Schemer Travis Wright In Front Of A ‘Couple Of Rows Of Eagle Scouts’
EDITOR’S NOTE: This post contains links to recommended reading on Barry Minkow and Travis Wright — the former a classic narcissist and con man doing his second stint in federal prison after having played the redemption circuit for years, the latter a man who used other people’s money to ensconce himself in the lap of luxury, surround himself with gaudy taxidermy such as a full-body African lion — and once reportedly paid $150,000 to have a swimming pool at his tony digs moved eight feet to make his life more perfect.
The stories on Minkow in Fortune magazine and Travis Wright in Deseret News are intriguing and, we believe, socially significant. Both provide plenty of fodder for rumination as America continues to confront an epidemic of white-collar fraud . . .
Barry Minkow first rose to national infamy as a con man who’d managed to dupe investors and Wall Street before he was old enough to sip a cocktail legally in many jurisdictions. The spectacular rise and fall of his ZZZZ Best carpet-cleaning business became one of the great cautionary tales of the 1980s.
Minkow was sentenced to federal prison for the ZZZZ Best caper, but reportedly embraced Christianity while jailed and later was freed. He became a pastor who doubled as a fraud analyst and television commentator.
But Minkow, now 45, is back in prison. Fortune magazine explains why in its Jan. 16 issue — and also reports that Minkow appears to have let it slip during the filming of a movie on his life that he was up to no good again. Here is an outtake:
“Finally, one day in September 2009, recounts Meyers, he was in the production booth with headphones on when Minkow and James Caan were schmoozing between takes. Perhaps forgetting about the open mike in his lapel, Minkow leaned over to Caan and whispered, “I financed this movie by clipping companies,” Minkow said.
“Clipping,” of course, is a slang word for “swindling.” Minkow says the incident “never happened.” “Not ever,” he wrote Fortune in an e-mail in September. “And have him produce the tape.”
Fortune reports that the tape was produced and that “Minkow said it.”
And Fortune reports plenty of other things, including an assertion that some people working on the film were getting paid in strange ways.
Read the Fortune story.
Separately, Deseret News is reporting that Utah Ponzi schemer Travis Wright has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.
Here is an outtake from the story in the Deseret News:
“A couple of rows of Eagle Scouts in court to support a former Scoutmaster-turned-criminal might have backfired against a convicted Ponzi scheme operator Friday.”
Going to court to observe proceedings as part of a civics lesson is one thing. But should Eagle Scouts assemble in court to show “support” for a man facing sentencing for one of the largest frauds in Utah history?
In Ponzi schemes — as longtime observers and victims know all too well — the visuals often are incongruous. In the AdSurfDaily case, for instance, some members who openly described themselves as people of faith looked on and said nothing as ASD President Andy Bowdoin claimed the prosecution was the work of “Satan” and compared the U.S. Secret Service to the 9/11 terrorists.
It’s our hope that the scouts were present at Wright’s sentencing to receive an education on how Ponzis alter lives and futures, not as stage props for Wright. And we also hope that Wright, post-release, shows the scouts that redemption is not just a religious or penal theory and that he doesn’t backslide like Minkow and become a slave to self-absorption.
NOTE ON ADDITIONAL RECOMMENDED READING: “The Salon of Famous Babies,” a classic poem by Irving Feldman, is not about Ponzi schemes. But if a Ponzi schemer or narcissist’s “daydream of glory” has sucked the joy from your life, you very well might find that the poem gives voice to your feelings of anger and provides a measure of comfort.
Visit the Virginia Quarterly Review to read “The Salon of Famous Babies.”