n. An investment swindle in which high profits are promised from fictitious sources and early investors are paid off with funds raised from later ones. Eventually, there isn't enough return to go around and the schemes unravel.
Tag Line: If this man stole all your money, what would you do?
Log Line: Filmmaker Billie Mintz tracks down the man responsible for weaseling people out of millions of dollars while learning exactly how a ponzi scheme frauded him and countless others out of their life savings.
Short Synopsis: When Billie Mintz discovers he lost his life savings as a victim of a Ponzi Scheme, he decides to take matters into his own hands. Hiring a Private Investigator in the town where the scheme was "allegedly" set up, Billie and his film crew go on a road trip to NY to track down the man who stole over 200 million dollars. Juxtaposed against the stories of victims who lost their homes and life savings throughout North America, The Ponzi Scheme will educate the public about how the biggest scheme in North America works in defrauding people of millions.
This is a story about what happened when an artist met a Ponzi scheme. The name of the artist is Billie Mintz, and he is a filmmaker in Toronto. His money disappeared on a January Monday in 2008. Mintz had just sat down to check his email. Monday was normally the day he got his statements from RazorFX, a foreign currency management firm operating out of Northport, New York, on Long Island. On the recommendation of a friend, Mintz had invested his life savings, which was about $20,000.
He loved getting his Monday statements. They detailed the trades his manager, Bradley Eisner, had made, and they were usually up, not by a lot, but maybe by one percent. It was a number not so outlandish as to be unbelievable, but exciting enough to tell your friends about, and it made Mintz feel that he had done something smart and sensible. At that rate, Mintz’s $20,000 would turn into $33,000 in a year.
On that particular Monday, however, no statement arrived and Mintz immediately knew something was wrong. Not long after, a Google search confirmed the worst. Eisner and his partner Michael MacCaull had been arrested in Long Island that morning. They had been running a Ponzi scheme, and had stolen more than $100 million. Mintz was stunned, not only by the loss of the money, but by the questions it suddenly raised about himself, chief among them the realization that he might have just become that guy who loses his life’s savings in a Ponzi scheme – and not even knowing what a Ponzi scheme is!
Mintz had fallen victim to one of the hundreds of other Ponzi schemes that swept the country in the easy credit years.
Mintz didn’t stay seated in shock for long. Where many might have seen pure loss, a shame to be covered up, and a mistake to forget, Mintz saw an opportunity to learn about issues of the human condition, from trust to kindness to greed.
In the next months, he would undertake an odyssey into the heart of the scheme that took his life savings. He would criss-cross the continent, meet victims in Phoenix, stake out accomplices in Vancouver, and, finally, disguised as a pizza delivery man, confront the man who had stolen his money.
The first thing he learned was that victims of a Ponzi scheme mostly haven’t a clue what to do about their situation. He felt he could help. As he saw it, making the film served a lot of purposes: He would educate the public about these schemes, tell a good story, and maybe even get some justice, or revenge.
Mintz had come to Razor FX through a friend, in his case a talent manager in Hollywood, who in turn had come to the fund through his trainer, who had heard about it through a friend who was a teacher. Razor FX would find investors across the country in this way, and in the U.K., New Zealand, Mexico, and Hong Kong, blossoming in the pockets of trust where “affinity fraud” often blooms. The “affinity” is usually a religious denomination or a neighborhood, but it can be any group, up to and including the members of a golf club, a la Madoff. Razor FX took off particularly in Hollywood, capturing investments from B-list stars and A-list managers, and in the Vancouver area, having likely migrated through a film world connection.
Mintz traveled to speak with victims in Arizona, Vancouver, and Los Angeles. Some of the stories were heartbreaking. One widow had lost $600,000, her life savings, and was thinking
of killing herself. Other stories proved how stupid smart and informed people could be. Mintz met someone he describes as “big in the financial world,” who had lost millions.
Next, Mintz got some cameraman friends, hopped in his little econocar, and headed through a blizzard to Long Island. To locate Eisner, Mintz found a private investigator and former cop who was not only willing to help, but volunteered his time. They found a rap sheet with assault on the record, and seven registered addresses for Eisner and RazorFX. They went to the offices of RazorFX, which were supposed to have been in Great Neck, NY, and Upper Saddle River, NJ, but they turned out to be mere forwarding addresses.
Along the way, Mintz made a visit to the North Fork Bank, where $68 million had been stored in one account under Eisner’s name, and where Mintz asked for his money back.
Finally, Mintz, with the help of his Long Island PI, began to close in on Eisner. They visited an address that turned out to be an older, smaller home, and then spent the night in a motel before heading out for the last on the list.
The next day, Mintz and his crew headed to 4 Merrivale Terrace, in Great Neck, New York, on Long Island. It was a mansion, and Mintz, in his econobox, parked across the street.
This one looked certainly looked right: It was a huge red brick home, with multiple towering chimneys, a two-story entry with a portico, and grand double doors. In short, the new money special. (Mintz would later find that it had been bought for some $3 million, in cash.)
Scared stiff and with pizza box in hand, Mintz confronted Eisner with a sense of humor
and compassion as one man to another. Citing their similarities, including age and religion, Mintz
questioned how one person could willingly hurt so many others. However, Mintz’s empathy does
have its limits. In what appears to be one last grim joke at the expense of the victims, Eisner will
likely use the money he stole to pay for a top lawyer who’ll try to keep Eisner out of prison for
stealing the money in the first place.
Written by Bryant Urstadt
Written, Produced, Directed and Edited by Billie Mintz
Camera by Dan Demsky, Justin Brennan Smith and Billie Mintz
Associate produced by Justin Brennan Smith and Dan Demsky
Executive produced by Ron Rivlin
Music and Sound by Igor Vrabac
Additional Editing by Justin Brennan Smith, Agnes Dec, and Jason Hailman