A television producer reporting on the financial losses of people bilked by the “Wolf of Wall Street,” Jordan Belfort, failed to convince a judge to release a list of victims and the restitution amounts owed. “Protecting the victims’ privacy in this context presents a strong countervailing interest to the presumption of access to this document,” Eastern District Judge John Gleeson (See Profile) wrote in U.S. v. Belfort, 98-cr-0859.
Belfort pleaded guilty securities fraud and money laundering in 1999 and Gleeson sentenced him. Belfort’s exploits became the subject of an Oscar-nominated film in December.
Larry Posner, a producer at Inside Edition, wrote Gleeson in March, asking for the victims’ names and the amounts owed so he could “report the stories of the many victims who have received little attention and have suffered greatly.”
The prosecution opposed the request, citing victim privacy. The government submitted the list of more than 1,300 victims and their addresses to Gleeson under seal.
Belfort’s obligations to pay half his monthly income to victims ended years ago, but Gleeson said Belfort still owes more than $100 million and is subject to “a broad array of means by which the Department of Justice may collect restitution due and owing.”
Gleeson said “the fact that [Belfort] and others victimized more than a thousand people is certainly, in my view, a matter of great public interest, as is the total amount of their losses.” Yet specific victim information was “traditionally viewed as private,” he said.
Individuals could face “further victimization,” said Gleeson, noting a prosecution point that “fraudsters” eyed such lists for “easy target[s]” in other schemes.
While the application was in good faith, the “potential harm” was “nevertheless substantial,” the judge said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Beth Schwartz appeared for the government.