Do Red Bull-Fueled Brokers Reach Boiling Point?
February 25, 2013
Stratton Oakmont Inc. was among the most notorious. Federal prosecutors said the brokerage generated millions in illicit profits by pushing penny stocks and manipulating their prices from its offices in Lake Success, New York, before it was shut down in 1996 by the National Association of Securities Dealers, a Finra predecessor.
Belesis grew up about 10 miles away in the Long Island town of North Merrick. He started college and dropped out, Pitts said. In 1996, when Belesis was 21, he got into the stock business at the former Lew Lieberbaum & Co., Finra records show.
That time was “the height of the penny-stock Long Island craze,” said Danny Porush, one of Stratton’s founders who served about three years in prison for securities fraud. “The 20-year-old kids at Stratton were driving Ferraris.”
After working at S.W. Bach & Co. and Joseph Gunnar & Co. with his brothers George, 26, and John, 27, Belesis started John Thomas in 2007, according to Finra records. He named it after his grandparents, Pitts said.
Finra records show Belesis owns at least 75 percent of the brokerage, which has reaped about $108 million in commissions and fees since its founding. Revenue was $22.3 million for the 12 months ended May 31, a 26 percent drop from a year earlier, according to SEC filings.
Belesis bought a condominium on Beach Street in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood for $3.94 million in 2009, city property records show. A Rolls Royce often was parked outside the office, four ex-brokers said. Pitts said it’s owned by an affiliated company and that Belesis usually walks to work.
Belesis has given at least $150,000 to Republican committees in New York within the past three years, state Board of Election records show, and former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani named him “Bronx GOP Man of the Year” in 2009. Republicans in Manhattan and Queens gave him similar awards.
“The son of immigrants, Tom rose from humble beginnings to become a great success on Wall Street,” Giuliani said in a video posted on YouTube. “Perhaps Tom’s greatest achievement can be seen in helping so many young New Yorkers realize their own dream by providing them with the opportunity to join the financial sector.”
Messages left for the former mayor at Giuliani Partners LLC, his consulting firm, weren’t returned.
Some of John Thomas’s revenue comes from investment banking -- companies paying the firm for advice and help raising capital. Among its clients were Grandparents.com Inc., a social- media site for the elderly, krill-oil maker Neptune Technologies & Bioressources Inc. and America West Resources Inc., a coal company that filed for bankruptcy on Feb. 1.
When Neptune executives gave a presentation to John Thomas’s staff, they brought along former National Football League quarterback John Elway, Kaufman said. Jeff Sperbeck, Elway’s agent, said the ex-quarterback is still a paid spokesman for Neptune and declined further comment.
Richard Remington, a Stockton, California contractor, said he got a call in December 2008 from his broker, who had moved to John Thomas two months earlier.