His movie may be hitting the big screen, but Jordan Belfort is nowhere near tinsel-town.
At least that’s what American authorities believe. They say the ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ is hiding out in Melbourne to avoid paying restitution payments.
Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for the US Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn, told the Wall Street Journalthat Belfort has moved to Melbourne and works there as a salesmen. The Attorney’s Office claims he’s living off book proceeds, movie royalties and his motivational speaking fees Down Under, where his assets cannot be reached by American authorities.
Belfort was a 1990s American stockbroker who spent 22 months in prison after being indicted for securities fraud and money laundering in 1998. He signed a restitution agreement in 2003 which would require him to pay 50% of his income to the 1,513 clients he defrauded. However, American federal prosecutors in October last year filed a complaint against him, saying that despite having an income of $1.7 million from the sale of two books and the sale of his movie rights, he had paid only a fraction of that in restitution payments over the past four years.
Belfort’s lawyer, Nicholas de Feis, disputes the allegation. He told the newspaper that his client lived in Manhattan Beach, California, and had not moved to Australia, though he did occasionally travel there for work reasons.
The WSJ reports that according to Belfort’s Facebook page, he was in Melbourne on Sunday, promoting a Google+ hangout he was about to lead.
Prosecutors told the newspaper they went public with their frustrations after Belfort made a number of what they claim are false statements on his Facebook page touting his generosity towards his victims. In one post from December 29, Belfort reportedly said he was going above and beyond his court order to hand over half his income, and was instead giving all of the proceeds from the books and film to his victims.
“For the record: I am not making any royalties off the film or the books, and I am totally content with that,” he wrote.
Two months earlier, prosecutors had filed a motion to recover funds they said Belfort owed his victims.
“We want to set the record straight,” said Nardoza. “Belfort’s making these claims, and they’re not factual. He’s in Australia and using that loophole to avoid paying.”
Belfort rose to fame after writing two books on his exploits, The Wolf of Wall Street and Catching the Wolf of Wall Street. Both books became bestsellers, and The Wolf of Wall Street has been made into a film starring Leonardo DiCaprio.