Why Britain's health tsar had to pay back a fortune stolen by Wolf of Wall Street: Tainted inheritance, FBI probe and a family furious with Joanna Lumley’s glib portrayal of their ill mother in movie
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It is a tale of limitless fraud and unimaginable greed. Martin Scorsese’s three-hour extravaganza, hotly tipped to contest all the main Oscars, charts the rise and fall of the Wolf Of Wall Street, the real-life Gordon Gekko who swindled millions while addicted to drugs, prostitutes, risk and money.
Leonardo DiCaprio plays Jordan Belfort, the notorious American conman whose memoirs inspired the film. But for UK audiences, it is the character of Aunt Emma, a glamorous British pensioner played by Joanna Lumley, who intrigues the most.
She is the linchpin of his criminal operations in the film, a genteel frontwoman for a multi-million pound money-laundering scam.
Conman: Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort in Martin Scorsese's new film, the Wolf Of Wall Street
It sounds far-fetched, yet its roots lie in a distressing and, until now, very private family trauma. For The Mail on Sunday has discovered that Aunt Emma was a retired schoolteacher from London called Patricia Mellor.
And we can reveal the daughter of the woman now portrayed on screen as a carefree criminal is Dame Julie Mellor, the health tsar in charge of overhauling the NHS complaints system, and one of the most respected members of the British Establishment.
Dame Julie, the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman, has held senior roles at the Equal Opportunities Commission, the National Consumer Council and the Department for Business Innovation and Skills. She is the sort of woman who counts Government Ministers as friends and has dined at Chequers with Tony Blair.
The 57-year-old has never spoken of her mother’s extraordinary association with Belfort – even to close family and friends – and it was only after Patricia’s death in 1994 that she and her sister Tiphanie, 54, a copywriter, learnt the truth: their mother, by all accounts a frugal woman, had a Swiss bank account containing hundreds of thousands of pounds.
It was not a welcome discovery.
Belfort was under investigation by the FBI and, as a result, the family were dragged into a distressing battle between him and US federal investigators.
In or around 1999, the two sisters returned all their mother’s money to the American authorities. They did not profit from Belfort’s crimes and, according to family members, neither did Patricia who, in truth, was yet another of Belfort’s victims.
Smeared once by Belfort’s book, according to family and legal sources, she has now been smeared again by Hollywood.
Establishment figure: Dame Julie Mellor is the health tsar in charge of overhauling the NHS complaints system, and daughter of 'Aunt Emma'
In director Scorsese’s film, and in Belfort’s memoir, both titled The Wolf Of Wall Street, Patricia is portrayed as a rather bohemian woman who was entranced by her life of crime.
The movie even shows her sharing a kiss with Belfort on a park bench in a Central London park one sunny afternoon as they discuss their plans.
But far from being a willing participant, she was in fact suffering from brain cancer at the time – a condition which affected her judgment.
Last night a family member said of the kissing scene: ‘Scorsese has a lot to answer for. People talk about the investors being the victims of exploitation by Belfort and Hollywood.
‘But what about Patricia? She was dying of brain cancer during the time that Belfort persuaded her to open the Swiss account.’
According to members of Belfort’s family and investigators into his £122 million fraud trial, Patricia had no idea that she was doing anything illegal.
The Mellors became enmeshed with Belfort because his second wife was Patricia’s niece, Nadine Caridi.
Belfort was an upstart New Yorker whose first business – a meat-selling enterprise – left him bankrupt at 24.
He went into the stock market, setting up Stratton Oakmont, which specialised in selling cheap ‘penny-stocks’ to blue-collar workers. He employed more than 1,000 brokers whose job it was to ‘pump-and-dump’.
They would buy large blocks of small public companies, then hard-sell the rest of the shares to inflate the price before dumping their own shares into the market, causing the price to plummet. It ruined thousands of people but made colossal profits for Belfort. There were private jets, luxurious properties, bodyguards, champagne, prostitutes and drug addiction.
Belfort, now 51, was eventually convicted of money laundering and securities fraud in 2003.
Although he was ordered to repay £67 million to a victim compensation fund, he received a pitiful four-year prison sentence after pleading guilty and turning in his former colleagues and partners.
Belfort left his first wife, Denise Lombardo and then married British model Caridi in a £600,000 ceremony in the Caribbean in 1991.
Two years later, he approached Patricia with his plan. She would open a Swiss bank account in her name – the money would be his but the interest would be hers.
When she agreed, he chartered a Learjet to fly them from London to Geneva and opened an account with Union Bancaire. The first deposit was for $3 million.
In The Wolf Of Wall Street he describes her as a ‘closet anarchist’ who would be perfect as a front for his money-laundering operation.
He wrote: ‘She had contempt for all things governmental and could be trusted without question . . . Aunt Patricia had no money . . . I would transform her life from rags to riches.’
Kissed by The Wolf: Joanna Lumley as Aunt Emma kisses DiCaprio as Belfort in the controversial scene set in Central Park from the Hollywood film
Patricia, the daughter of a civil engineer, lived alone in a flat in Richmond, West London, after her two marriages ended in divorce.
She lived on a small pension from her job as a schoolteacher and according to Belfort’s memoirs, she jumped at the chance of a little excitement in her life. He wrote: ‘Patricia herself said that the sheer excitement of being part of a sophisticated money-laundering ring would keep her young, perhaps for years to come! What a pleasant thought that was!
‘And, in truth, what were the chances of her really getting in trouble? Almost zero, I thought. Probably less than that.’
He also claimed: ‘Just because she’d never needed or wanted a life of wealth and extravagance didn’t mean it wasn’t better for her!
‘It was better for her, for Chrissake! With the extra money, she’d be able to spend the twilight of her life in the lap of luxury.
‘And (God forbid) if she ever got sick, she would have access to the finest medical care money could buy.’
His self-justification seems particularly grotesque given that Patricia had already been diagnosed with brain cancer.
Last night, in an interview with The Mail on Sunday, Belfort, who lives in Manhattan Beach, California, denied knowing about the illness.
Now a motivational speaker, he said: ‘To my knowledge, she didn’t have brain cancer when we discussed this and I would be truly shocked to find out that she did.
‘In fact, it would be almost impossible due to the timeline because there was a long lapse from the first time we discussed until she actually did it. But I stress the world “almost” as I guess anything is possible.
‘When I referred to medical care it was in vague terms, as in “when you’re in your twilight years”.
‘As far as her knowing what she was doing, I think Patricia deserves more credit than that.
‘She was a very smart lady and it wasn’t rocket science. But she had no idea that I was doing anything wrong to make the money. In her mind it was about avoiding taxes and protecting my money.’
But then a year later, Patricia died of a stroke. Belfort needed to prove the money was his.
In The Wolf Of Wall Street he says he discussed the possibility of persuading his wife’s mother, Suzanne – Patricia’s sister – to sign an affidavit saying she had witnessed him handing the money to Patricia in the United States.
It was only now, while grieving for their mother that Julie and Tiphanie were told of the Swiss bank account. And they were only told because Belfort needed them to get his hands on the cash.
Belfort wrote: ‘All at once a fabulous idea came bubbling into my brain. What if we were to actually contact her kids and get them involved? What if we had them fly over to Switzerland and claim the money? It would be like hitting Lotto to them! I could have Randall [his ‘Master Forger’] draw up a new will, saying the money I’d loaned Patricia was to come back to me but all the profits were to go to her children.’
That way, said his accountant ‘The Chef’, “You’ll get your original investment back, the kids will get a five-million-dollar windfall, and we can move on with our lives.” ’ Last night Belfort confirmed that Dame Julie and Tiphanie were kept completely in the dark.
He said: ‘Tiff and Julie knew nothing. I told them there was money there and had lawyers deal with them after that and I don’t know what exactly happened. They were unaware of anything.’
What in fact happened was a protracted legal wrangle. The FBI had become suspicious of Belfort’s activities. He was eventually convicted of money-laundering and securities fraud in 2003.
And, without their knowledge, he had dragged Patricia and her daughters into his mess.
'She was a very smart lady': Belfort told the Mail On Sunday in an interview that Patricia Mellor knew she was helping him to avoid taxes, but she had no idea that the money he was making was scammed from investors
There is no record of Patricia leaving a will in this country so it’s impossible to know the value of her assets at the time of her death, but a source close to the investigation has confirmed it was hundreds of thousands of pounds.
He said: ‘After Belfort was busted, her daughters voluntarily co-operated with the authorities. The FBI and a representative of the US Justice Department travelled to England around 1998 or 1999 and interviewed them both at the offices of lawyers they had retained and found them to be credible, honest and completely innocent.
‘After their mother died, they discovered they were to receive hundreds of thousands of pounds from an account in Switzerland and none of this made any sense to them. Their mother was a retired school teacher. How could she have this money? And why was it in Switzerland?
‘The interviews were done confidentially at the time but the outcome was an agreement that became public record.
‘The agreement was that the funds would be turned over to the US authorities because the money was obtained from criminal activities by Belfort.
‘The lawyers for the daughters were careful to make sure the agreement was compliant with the Inland Revenue. Because the daughters were innocent victims, the agreement may have provided for their legal costs to be reimbursed.’
Joel Cohen, the attorney who prosecuted the case against Belfort, agrees the women knew nothing. Cohen, who is now a partner in the New York law firm Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher, was also shocked by the way Patricia was characterised in the film and said: ‘If it was true, I am certain Belfort would have told us about it.
‘He went into prurient details with us as well as in his books about his sexual activities with his wife and prostitutes.
‘I think the movie-makers made it up and that’s an issue for me. They say they are telling a true story but they embellished the truth about a victim who can’t even respond to the allegation.’
In terms of the real-life investigation, he added: ‘We concluded that Julie and Tiphanie had no involvement in this.
‘They had no idea of the shenanigans in which Belfort was involved. They knew nothing about the events that gave rise to the establishment of the account and when they did find out, they returned the money to the US authorities in a settlement that is public record.’
And that, they hoped, would be the end of it. Instead, thanks to Hollywood, their mother’s role has become a permanent part of the Belfort legend.
Last night, Dame Julie and Tiphanie confirmed that ‘Aunt Emma’ is in fact, their mother, Patricia, but declined to comment further.
Belfort professed remorse and said: ‘She was an amazing lady, and I loved her. She had a certain type of wisdom and goodness to her that I have seldom seen.
‘The fact that I would get her involved in something like that – despite the fact that I was certain that she would never get in trouble for it, as I would have stepped forward and said I tricked her – shows just how out of whack my moral compass had become by that time.’
As anyone who has seen the film will know.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2550245/Why-Britains-health-tsar-pay-fortune-stolen-Wolf-Wall-Street-Tainted-inheritance-FBI-probe-family-furious-Joanna-Lumleys-glib-portrayal-ill-mother-movie.html#ixzz3JIeJdtmL
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Nov 12, 2012 - 20 posts - 12 authors... whose victims included Susanna York, Sarah Miles, Julie Christie, Julia Foster and Charlotte Rampling. .... http://aangirfan.blogspot.co.uk/2012...important.html ... Are people still looking for the Mellor/Livingstone podcast?