Bo knows fraud — Richard “Bo” Dietl, that is. He’s a former New York City Police detective who now runs a Manhattan-based private detection firm, Beau Dietl & Associates. (No, that’s not a misprint; Dietl explains that “Beau” is “more sophisticated” than “Bo.”) Among his high-profile clients: Jordan Belfort, the convicted fraudster whose vast stock manipulation scheme is recreated in Martin Scorsese’s hit film The Wolf of Wall Street, in which Dietl appears as himself.
Recently, the 63-year-old Dietl shared his raw observations (sanitized for your protection) about Belfort, why greed isn’t always good, and what “the Google” is keeping from us.
You were part of the security team around the real Jordan Belfort, weren’t you?
Yes, I saw all the partying; the movie is pretty much on the mark about all of that. In the 1990s, we were protecting him against hurting himself because he was always stoned on Quaaludes.
Did you totally miss what was going on beneath the surface — the bags of cash and so forth?
I honestly never realized that what he was doing was illegal. A lot of people were putting IPOs out, making money and losing money. The criminal part was that he had all of these what I call “felicitators.” They would buy the stock on Monday at $2 and jack it up to $16, then they would sell it on Friday. The crime part came in when they [the investors] were kicking back cash. I didn’t know at that time they were doing those things. I was hired for the security side, because you had a lot of organized-crime people that were looking to weasel their way into the company.
Now that you do know what went on, are you surprised at how Jordan Belfort has behaved since his 1999 conviction on securities fraud?
He is supposed to pay back the people he stole from. I said to him, “You keep acting like you’re Robin Hood. Level yourself to the ground. You weren’t exactly Robin Hood. You hurt a lot of people.” I think he got mad at me, but I don’t [care]. If I had stolen $100 million or $200 million, or whatever, it would be my duty to pay back all the money I stole. He should have to pay it back.
Given all the excess shown in the movie, and depicted in the books Belfort has written, do you think it will inspire a new generation of Wall Street wolves?
We should not glamorize it — the gorgeous women, the boats and all — and make kids think that by committing crimes you can have all of this. That’s like glamorizing drug dealers.
But the movie doesn’t show any of Belfort’s victims.
No, isn’t that funny? There are no victims. But they’ve made great movies about terrible, terrible people. It’s a terrific, entertaining movie.
Before Belfort, there was Gordon Gekko, the fictional corporate raider in the movie Wall Street who famously declared, “Greed is good.” Since Belfort was busted, we’ve also seen Bernie Madoff.
Madoff I met back in 1990s when I played golf with him. A friend of mine told me, “He gives you a return of 18% minimum. You got a couple of extra bucks, Bo?” And I said, “I got about $2 million.” He said, “No, we’re only taking $15 million at a time.” They wouldn’t let me invest. That’s part of what they do to make you think that they’ve got such a great deal.
By “they,” I assume you mean people who run Ponzi schemes. Aren’t they the old face of financial fraud? Haven’t financial crimes gotten more sophisticated?
No, Ponzi schemes are going on as we’re speaking right now. I’m dealing with people who have gotten some lost money back and are now saying to me, “Suddenly the guy is not returning my calls. I spoke to him four months ago.” I ask them if they ever checked the guy out. People don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on background research.
Isn’t it harder to misrepresent yourself in an age when people can check you out on the Internet?
People think that what they read on the Google means something. Let’s be honest, you can put anything you want on the Google.
What about employees who embezzle from their own employers? Can that ever be brought under control?
I personally don’t see the economy being as strong as everyone is saying. The upper percentile of America is doing great. But when regular, everyday people have an opportunity to make money, they take chances because they need the money. People are still greedy. If they work around money, they give into temptation. And that’s how they become criminals.