The hunter of the real Wolf of Wall Street

Leonardo diCaprio made the story famous, but what about the FBI agent who played a key role in the real life version?

'To a degree you have to steer away from glamorising it. But it is fascinating because the case does touch on so many different elements,’ according to Gregory Coleman who caught notorious stock manipulator Jordan Belfort - the so-called Wolf of Wall Street.

‘It's all about the facts and where they lead you. If the facts didn't lead me to Belfort I would have left it, you have to follow the bank accounts.’

It was co-operation with Belfort’s Swiss banker that eventually led Coleman and his colleague JC to end their six-year long investigation into the boiler-room operation Belfort had been running since 1989.

Following Coleman’s investigation into him, Belfort was arrested and sentenced to 22 months in prison and required to pay $110m. in restitution to his victims. Belfort is now also a public speaker. 

‘We ended up speaking at the same hotel last year,’ said Mr Coleman, who was in Guernsey for a public speaking engagement at the recent Mourant Ozannes Guernsey Trusts Forum.

‘I crashed his event, actually. I didn’t know he was going to be there, the elevator man saw my event badge and said ‘’you guys have the agent that caught him but we’ve got the guy himself’’ which was doubly good because he didn’t realise I was the agent.

‘I’m in touch with [Belfort] anyway and three or four other people I’ve arrested. It’s a product of my investigational style, it’s not personal for me. I’m an agent, I have a job to do and they’re the criminals.’

Chasing ‘dirty’ money

The former FBI agent also spent a considerable amount of time chasing 'dirty business' in offshore jurisdictions from his base in New York - including some places closer to home.

‘During the 1990s, Jersey, Guernsey, and Isle of Man were popular spots for US fraudsters to go. I had several investigations that led here. The island is relatively close, you speak the same language, and had a very hospitable financial system that courted the type of business that fraudsters wanted. It is what it is, if there was no dirty business there I wouldn’t have been looking there.

‘That seemed to slowly disappear in the 2000s and changed to places like Mauritius and Seychelles. My sense is that it is probably because of a crack-down in the US, a change in attitude to doing business as usual (in Guernsey), and possibly terrorism financing fears. 

‘I’m also aware of recent asset forfeiture sharing between Guernsey and the US which suggests to me they are serious about cleaning up the business. 

‘Criminals always find the path of least resistance and avoid places that will seize funds in cooperation with the US. Publicly announcing such a seizure is broadcasting a strong message,’ he said. 

Read more of the interview in May's Business Brief, with Mr Coleman's thoughts on Bitcoin and Russia.