Do they still put you in jail for a Ponzi scheme of less than $25 million? Or is that the kind of crime that just gets you laughed out of a Palm Beach country club? Ask Tony Young, the investor who in Palm Beach was a next-door neighbor to Bernie Madoff and is now suspected of bilking investors out of... (drumroll...) $23 million.
Yeah, million with an "m." Isn't that just precious? A Ponzi scheme so small it would fit in the glove compartment of one of Madoff's yachts.
But judging by the profile of Young just posted by Fortune magazine, Young's case is still fascinating, if only for showing how easy it was during the economy's boom days to lure deep-pocketed investors -- even for a college dropout.
From that article:
Fortune's months-long investigation -- culminating in a face-to-face interview with Young -- has revealed that he had no experience managing money before launching his hedge fund. Nor did he have an MBA or even an undergraduate college degree. (Records show he completed one year at Georgia's Reinhardt College in 1990, then two years at Georgia State University, from 1993 to 1995, with no degree awarded.) Though he sported a Choate Rosemary Hall sweatshirt, the school has no record of him. Even the origin of the money he used to launch his polo career is questionable.
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Young, it appears, was quite a storyteller. To his friends in Chester County, Penn., just outside Philadelphia, Young described a bucolic childhood of a kind that hasn't been seen since Gone With the Wind.
His Northern friends remember Young telling them that he'd grown up on an antebellum Georgia plantation called Rosebud, where he was raised by an African- American nanny named Mae-Mae. (Fortune was unable to identify any such place.)
Mae-Mae? That kills me. Slightly more believable than Aunt Jemima. But his schtick worked on investors, who considered him a self-styled financial genius. Investigators say Young wasn't investing the money; rather, he was squirreling it away. Which is why it's fitting that his hedge fund should be called "Acorn."
Fascinating fellow. Here's an article the Palm Beach Post wrote about Young after the allegations first surfaced last spring.