* Ordered by judge to pay $583.6 million restitution
* Latest fraud had targeted U.S. homebuilder Lennar
* Minkow once hailed as Wall Street "boy wonder"
(Adds judge's quote, details)
By Tom Brown and Manuel Rueda
MIAMI, July 21 Barry Minkow, a Wall Street
swindler and ex-convict who went on to reinvent himself as an
anti-fraud crusader, was sent back to jail for five years on
Thursday for a stock-manipulation scam.
Minkow, 45, was also ordered by U.S District Judge Patricia
Seitz to pay $583.6 million in restitution to homebuilder
Lennar Corp (LEN.N), after being convicted for spreading lies
about the Miami-based company that caused its stock price to
plummet in January 2009.
Prosecutors said the former carpet cleaning entrepreneur,
once hailed as a Wall Street wonder boy, used the
misinformation to trade in Lennar shares for personal benefit.
They also say he abused his relationship as a collaborator with
Minkow, who already served seven years in prison after his
conviction in a stock fraud case in 1988, had faced a sentence
potentially totaling more than 20 years for his role in the
But as part of a plea bargain, and in a tradeoff for a
lower sentence, he agreed to help federal prosecutors
investigate fellow conspirators in the Lennar scam.
His defense lawyer, Alvin Entin, made an emotional plea for
additional leniency, citing his cooperation with authorities.
"His hubris caused his problem," Entin said, comparing
Minkow to the Greek mythological figure Icarus.
"He tried to fly too high on wings of wax," Entin said.
But Judge Seitz appeared unconvinced that Minkow had
learned his lesson.
"What guarantee do I have that he's not going to slip off,
he's so bigger than life that when he slips off it has a major
impact on society," she said.
Minkow, wearing a light pink long-sleeved shirt and a grey
tie, gave monosyllabic answers to the judge and declined to
speak when given the opportunity.
He did laugh briefly when the judge stumbled over the
ordered restitution amount, mistakenly saying "billions"
instead of "millions".
Minkow founded ZZZZ Best Carpet Cleaning as a teenager and
was just 21 when he was first convicted of multiple counts of
securities and mail fraud in a federal case in New York. He was
found to have swindled investors out of tens of millions of
dollars in a Ponzi scheme case involving ZZZZ.
He claimed to have reformed over the years, after his
release from prison, and had gone on to work with the FBI and
other law enforcement agencies to root out fraud and build
cases against white-collar criminals.
Minkow had even set up a company, Fraud Discovery Institute
Inc, to project his new persona as an anti-fraud crusader.
Minkow was also held in high esteem by members of the
Community Bible Church in San Diego, California, where he
worked as a pastor.
"Minkow has built a life on appearing to be a giving
person, while working to illegally enrich himself," prosecutors
said in a court filing prior to the sentencing, in which they
urged no further reduction in his punishment.
"His family, religious community and the investing public
have been deceived and defrauded by his selfish, immoral and
illegal behavior," the prosecutors said.
Daniel Petrocelli, counsel for Lennar, issued a statement
after the sentencing that praised the U.S. Attorney and FBI for
their efforts in prosecuting the case.
"We expect that the other individuals responsible for the
illegal attack on Lennar's stock and shareholders will soon be
brought to justice," he added.
The case is United States of America v. Barry Minkow, U.S.
District Court, Southern District of Florida, No. 11-20209.
(Writing by Tom Brown and Pascal Fletcher; editing by Matthew
Lewis and Tim Dobbyn)