BEST CRIMINAL CONVICTION IN THE PAST TWELVE MONTHS (2005)

Philip Gratz

BEST CRIMINAL CONVICTION IN THE PAST TWELVE MONTHS Philip Gratz Hey, dummy, stop shaking your head in wonder at how wise guys end up with million-dollar homes, luxury cars, and extravagant vacations. Here's how: They spend other people's money. Feel stupid? At least you weren't among the boneheads across the country, three of whom resided in South Florida, who sent some $8.9 million to purported stock investor Philip Gratz from 1998 to early 2003. (Apparently they weren't aware that in 1995 Gratz was convicted of scheming to inflate the stock price of a Miami-based luxury-boat-rental company by falsifying its financial records.) Operating out of suburban New Jersey, Gratz lured his victims by promising unbelievable profits: 25 to 50 percent. He lived the good life until his arrest in January 2004. According to the 24-count indictment, he "misappropriated" more than three million dollars in investor funds for a fancy home, real-estate investments, two Mercedes Benzes, artwork, jewelry, watches, home furnishings, a vacation in St. Barthelemy, cruises, limousines, restaurants, designer clothes, retail purchases, and more. Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Hong persuaded a Miami jury to convict Gratz. This past November a local federal judge sentenced the 40-year-old hustler to a little more than seven years in prison and eight million dollars in restitution. Seven years of splendor in exchange for seven in prison and a ton of cash. Not a great investment. Now who's feeling like a dummy?