'Cryptic comeback' The Wolf of Wall Street sharpens his teeth for crypto

Jordan Belfort was lounging by the pool on a sunny April morning, sipping Red Bull and sharing a cautionary tale. Not the usual one about his imprisonment on 10 counts of securities fraud and money laundering: This time, he’d been the victim. Last fall, he explained to a group of businessmen gathered at his palatial home, a hacker had stolen $300,000 of digital tokens from his cryptocurrency wallet.
'Cryptic comeback' The Wolf of Wall Street sharpens his teeth for crypto

Delhi: He had gotten the bad news at dinner on a Friday, he said. After breaking into Belfort’s account, the hacker transferred large quantities of Ohm, a popular cryptocurrency token, to a separate wallet — a publicly visible transaction Belfort could do nothing to reverse. “You can see where the money is,” he said. “It’s the most frustrating thing.”

Belfort, 59, is best known for “The Wolf of Wall Street,” a tell-all memoir about his debauched 1990s career in high finance, which the director Martin Scorsese adapted into a 2013 movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio as the hard-partying protagonist. These days, the real-life Belfort is a consultant and sales coach, charging tens of thousands of dollars for private sessions.

This month, at his house in Miami Beach, he hosted nine blockchain enthusiasts and entrepreneurs for a weekend-long crypto workshop — a chance to hang out with the Wolf and enjoy an “intimate financial experience” with his crypto-industry friends.

A long line of celebrities has tried to profit from the cryptocurrency boom, appearing in widely mocked crypto commercials or flogging nonfungible tokens, the unique digital collectibles known as NFTs. Belfort said he has refused to participate in the worst of the shilling. He has declined offers to launch a line of Wolf-themed NFTs, he said, even though “I could easily make $10 million.”

He is also a recent convert away from crypto skepticism. Not long ago, he shot a YouTube video about the dangers of Bitcoin, which he called “frickin’ insanity” and “mass delusion.” Over the years, he said, he gradually changed his mind, as he learned more about cryptocurrencies and prices skyrocketed.

Now, Belfort is an investor in a handful of start-ups, including a new NFT platform and an animal-themed crypto project that he said is “trying to take the dog-and-pet ecosystem and put it onto the blockchain.”

Whatever his crypto bona fides, Belfort is unquestionably qualified to discuss the subject of financial fraud, a major problem in the digital-asset industry. In the 1990s, the firm he founded, Stratton Oakmont, operated a sophisticated stock-manipulation scheme. Belfort eventually served 22 months in prison. Given that history, it can feel slightly surreal to hear an older, more grizzled Belfort proclaim that he is “massively looking forward to regulation” in the crypto industry. The crypto workshop at his house was not free: Guests paid one Bitcoin for a seat, or the cash equivalent, which is roughly $40,000. The guests — chosen from a pool of more than 600 applicants — milled around Belfort’s backyard, eating made-to-order omelets and trading tips about Bitcoin mining and tokenomics. A crypto miner from Kazakhstan relaxed in the sun with an aspiring blockchain influencer who runs a roofing company in Idaho. A Florida businessman explained his plan to use NFTs in a start-up that he’s pitching as Tinder for music.

David Yaffe-Bellany is a journalist with NYT©2022

The New York Times

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