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How Long Was Jordan Belfort in Prison?

Jordan Belfort, also known as the “Wolf of Wall Street”, was indicted in 1998 on charges of securities fraud and money laundering. After cooperating with authorities, he served 22 months in federal prison. Let’s take a closer look at the crimes Belfort committed, his conviction and sentencing, and the amount of time he ultimately served behind bars.

The Crimes of Jordan Belfort

Jordan Belfort founded the brokerage firm Stratton Oakmont in the late 1980s. Through fraudulent sales tactics and “pump and dump” schemes, Belfort and his team of stockbrokers made millions by deceiving investors. Some of the criminal activities Belfort engaged in included:

  • Securities fraud – Belfort manipulated the prices of penny stocks to inflate their value and attract unsuspecting investors. When share prices were high enough, Belfort sold his shares and pocketed huge profits while investors lost their money.
  • Money laundering – To hide funds gained through illegal activities, Belfort funneled money through offshore accounts and Swiss banks. He also acquired assets and property under other people’s names to conceal the source of the money.
  • Pump and dump schemes – Belfort conspired with boiler room brokers to drive up prices of OTC stocks through high-pressure sales tactics and misleading claims. Once prices were artificially inflated, Belfort offloaded his shares for substantial gains.
  • Unethical sales tactics – Belfort encouraged his brokers to use any tactics necessary, legal or not, to get people to invest. This included making false claims about stocks and not informing clients about the risky nature of penny stock investments.
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These fraudulent practices led to Belfort and his firm making over $200 million, while investors lost everything. The corruption and excess found at Stratton Oakmont was chronicled in Belfort’s memoir which was adapted into the 2013 film “The Wolf of Wall Street”.

Jordan Belfort’s Conviction and Sentencing

In 1998, federal investigators finally had enough evidence to indict Belfort on securities fraud and money laundering charges. After trying to flee the country, Belfort decided to cooperate with authorities in exchange for a reduced sentence.

In 1999, Belfort pleaded guilty to the following charges:

  • Securities fraud
  • Money laundering

As part of his plea deal, Belfort was required to pay back $110.4 million to defrauded investors. His sentence was whittled down to 22 months in prison along with three years supervised release. Belfort was also ordered to undergo drug counseling and alcohol monitoring.

While the nearly two year prison sentence was far less than the potential 20+ years he could have faced, authorities felt it was an appropriate punishment given Belfort’s cooperation and the funds he paid back to investors. Critics argued the sentence was too light given the severity of his crimes.

Amount of Time Served in Prison

Jordan Belfort ultimately only served 22 months of his 22 month sentence.

Here is a summary of his time incarcerated:

  • April 16, 1999 – Began serving his sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution in Taft, California
  • October 2000 – Was transferred to a halfway house after serving approximately 18 months
  • December 2000 – Released from halfway house after a total of 22 months behind bars
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So while technically sentenced to 22 months, Belfort was released two months early from the halfway house which essentially amounted to only serving about 20 months.

Belfort was able to secure an early release partially due to good behavior. Some reports also indicate his wealthy status allowed him access to special privileges like day passes while incarcerated.

Questions Regarding Jordan Belfort’s Prison Sentence

Here are some common questions surrounding how long Jordan Belfort was actually in prison:

Why was his prison sentence so short?

Belfort was initially facing 20 years or more in prison before he agreed to cooperate with authorities. By providing information on his co-conspirators and agreeing to pay restitution, prosecutors offered him a plea deal for a significantly reduced sentence. The short 22 month sentence was seen as a trade-off for Belfort’s assistance.

What was prison life like for Belfort?

By all accounts, Belfort’s time in prison was relatively comfortable and unrestrictive. At Taft Correctional, he had his own cell in the “snitch wing” and was protected from other prisoners. He claims to have frequently left prison grounds on day passes. He spent some of his sentence at a minimum security facility that allowed weekend visits home.

Did he serve the full 22 months?

No, Belfort only served around 20 months before being transferred to a halfway house. He was released two months early from the halfway house in December 2000.

Could he have gotten a longer sentence?

Absolutely. Money laundering and securities fraud charges carry maximum sentences of 20 years or more. If he did not agree to cooperate with authorities, Belfort likely would have faced two decades behind bars. His total time served equated to only around 10% of that potential sentence.

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Where did he serve his prison time?

Belfort served the majority of his sentence at FCI Taft near Bakersfield, California. Originally a medium security facility, Taft now houses minimum security inmates. For the last two months he was transferred to a halfway house prior to release.

Did he really share a cell with Tommy Chong?

Yes. Belfort claims he briefly shared a cell with comedian and activist Tommy Chong while at Taft Correctional. Chong was serving a sentence for selling bongs. The unlikely pairing was portrayed in the “Wolf of Wall Street” movie.

Conclusion

In summary, Jordan Belfort served 22 months in federal prison after pleading guilty to securities fraud and money laundering charges in 1999. Due to cooperating with investigators and the plea deal he secured, his sentence was far below the 20+ years he potentially faced. Belfort ultimately only served around 20 months before being released from a halfway house in December 2000.

His relatively short prison stint and comfortable incarceration conditions have been controversial given the severity of the financial crimes he committed. While Belfort paid back some funds and helped authorities, critics argue his punishment did not match the scope of damage he inflicted on investors. The case continues to fuel debates about fairness in sentencing and prison privileges.

Prison Inside Team

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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