Media – 2007

Favorite Media Interviews and Mentions

December 17, 2007: Fortune Magazine Special Issue Investor’s Guide 2008 – Takes One to Know One, By Peter Carbonara

While he sneers at words like “redemption,” in more reflective moments Sam E. admits he does it, at least in part, to atone. “I feel guilty about what I did. I want to give back to society,” he says.

Antar offers himself for public inspection not as a diabolical accounting genius but as Mr. Bad Example, a living object lesson in basic criminal behavior. After he’s been introduced at one of his speaking gigs, for instance, he generally thanks the audience for their hospitality – and then scolds them for being chumps. One October morning he told a classroom filled with amused Columbia University graduate business students, “All too often we give the white-collar criminal a pass. If I were a serial killer, a child molester, a rapist, you wouldn’t applaud me. You’d be throwing eggs – am I right?” And then he’s off to the races, talking about Crazy Eddie and the “artful liars” responsible for the “brutality of white-collar crime.”

October 11, 2007: The Asbury Park Press – Agents get “Crazy” advice about white collar-crime, By Bob Jordan

MANALAPAN — Sam E. Antar is still crazy after all these years.

Antar — who came clean after participating in the massive white-collar crime activity of the former Crazy Eddie discount electronics chain — spoke to about 80 Internal Revenue Service agents and other Treasury Department personnel in a continuing education seminar Sept. 27 at the Monmouth County Library headquarters, Symmes Road.
The program agenda listed Antar as a “former accountant.”

“He said that’s a mistake,” said Special Agent Alan Drucker during the introduction of Antar. He said, “I should be introduced as Sam Antar, crook.”

As he has in other appearances in front of college students, professional groups and law enforcement agencies, Antar described Crazy Eddie — a company best-known for its over-the-top TV commercials during the 1970s and 1980s — as little more than a criminal enterprise.

“White-collar crime is a crime of persuasion,” Antar said. “It’s all about breaking down barriers between the criminal and his victim. It’s all a confidence game. There’s a saying that you can get more (flies) with honey than vinegar.”

Antar said he speaks publicly about the Crazy Eddie days to educate people about white-collar crime. The company was founded in 1969 by Antar’s cousin Eddie, who had a home in Ocean Township, and uncle Sam M. Antar, a longtime Long Branch resident. Edison-based Crazy Eddie grew to about 40 stores and more than 2,000 employees by 1987. Antar said the principals skimmed cash, understated the company’s earnings and underpaid its taxes.

“We never once had a conversation about morality,” Antar said. “We didn’t care about people.”

Antar offered thoughts about the long-term impact of cheating investors and tricking customers.

“White-collar crime is just as brutal as violent crime. It should be treated as such,” said Antar, adding that the financial consequences to the fleeced are “devastating.”

“What about the 3,000 people who lost their jobs (at Crazy Eddie stores)?” Antar said.

He has said he got off light: six months of house arrest and $30,000 in fines.

On Antar’s Web site, he says, “Crazy Eddie Antar was coined by U.S. Attorney Michael Chertoff as “the Darth Vader of Capitalism.’ This securities fraud cost investors hundreds of millions of dollars, cost many people their life savings, cost many people their jobs and careers, cost creditors hundreds of millions of dollars, and many people’s suffering that cannot be measured.”

June 25, 2007: The New York Post – Lost & Found at Crazy Eddie Confronts ‘Dirty Thug’ in Famed Scandal, By Austin Smith

THIS reunion is insaaaaane!

It’s the first face-to-face meeting in 20 years between cousins Eddie and Sam Antar, the founder and chief financial officer, respectively, of the Crazy Eddie electronics stores.

The chain of 43 stores – made famous by the iconic radio and TV commercials that ran throughout the 1980s featuring radio personality Jerry Carroll as Crazy Eddie, whose prices were “insaaaaane!” – went bankrupt in 1989 following accusations that the two cousins had skimmed millions of dollars from the company.

Eddie, now 59, was eventually convicted of various conspiracy and racketeering charges and went to prison. Sam, now 50, avoided prison by testifying against Eddie.

This week, they’ll be seen together – for the first time since the scandalous collapse of the company tore their family apart – in a bitter “reunion” engineered for CNBC by business journalist and CNBC contributor Herb Greenberg.

Their get-together is part of a 12-minute segment that will be seen on CNBC’s “Business Nation” Wednesday night at 10.

On the show, the two cousins, who still live in Brooklyn but do not speak, confront each other in a room at the Sherry Netherlands Hotel that was reserved for the interview.

Greenberg said the meeting came about after Eddie Antar read a story Greenberg had written about Sam Antar in the Wall Street Journal.

“[Eddie] wanted to confront [Sam] with certain things,” Greenberg told The Post. “Sam also wanted to confront Eddie. He had been wanting to do this for a very long period of time. And out of that gelled the piece.”

The meeting was highly-charged. “I was sitting there sort of in the middle of it trying to keep control and at one point Sam was just barraging Eddie with insults,” Greenberg said. “At one point, I swore Eddie was going to bolt.”

Sam Antar now works as a forensic accountant who assists law-enforcement organizations in investigating white-collar crimes. Greenberg said Sam is racked with guilt over his criminal past and likely felt a confrontation with Eddie would somehow be therapeutic.

“You brought us up to be crooks, Eddie!” Sam tells his older cousin on the CNBC show. “Everything I became came from you, Eddie! Now I don’t blame myself, but everything I became I learned from you! Don’t try to control the topic of conversation! You’re not a big [expletive deleted] anymore, Eddie! You’re a two-bit thug just like I am!”
In reply, Eddie blamed “the culture” in which he was raised, according to Greenberg.

He said he cannot determine if the meeting was cathartic for Sam. One thing it didn’t do was bring the two closer together.

“They’re not on speaking terms and I don’t believe they’ll ever be on speaking terms,” Greenberg said.

March 19, 2007: The Columbia Tribune – Speaker warns audience of fraud: White-collar criminal says schools must teach ethics by Crystal Neo

Long before the Enron scandal broke, there was Crazy Eddie Inc., a bygone consumer electronics retail chain that was engaged in one of the largest security frauds in the 1980s.

Employees were paid off the books, and for every $5 Crazy Eddie reported as income, the company skimmed $1. The company was also involved in inventory fraud. This securities fraud cost investors hundreds of millions of dollars and cost many people their life savings.

Sam Antar, former chief financial officer of Crazy Eddie and a convicted felon, delivered his presentation at Friday’s Richard M. Orin Ethics Symposium on white-collar crime.

Antar gave his speech at the University of Missouri-Columbia College of Business. According to materials from MU, Antar gives free presentations on white-collar crime “to assist in paying for what he feels is his personal debt to society.”

He is frank about his bad acts: “It’s not because I found God. … It’s not because I wrap myself with the American flag. … The only reason why I’m speaking to you today – maybe as a non-criminal – is because I got caught. Had I not gotten caught, I’d still be a criminal today.”

Focusing on the case study of Crazy Eddie’s securities fraud, he said fraud is detected because it becomes unsustainable and/or the co-conspirators start fighting each other. Crazy Eddie was started in 1971 in Brooklyn, N.Y. At its peak, Crazy Eddie had 43 stores in four states and earned more than $300 million in sales.

The lack of fraud courses in business and accounting schools is a worryin trend, he said.

“Eighty percent of business and accountancy students go to colleges that do not have courses on fraud,” Antar said. “They will never learn about the biggest detriment to their livelihood and profession. They will never learn about criminals like me.

“I committed crimes just because I could. I took advantage of the lack of cynicism, I took advantage of the lack of skepticism. To us, committing a crime is simply another goal, a cold-hearted goal. To us, it’s just another project. If we can succeed in it, fine. If not, we’ll just find another way to succeed in our crime.”

For his crime, Antar was let off with what he described as “an extremely light sentence” of six months of house arrest and a $20,000 fine under a civil law charge. The business’s co-founder and Antar’s cousin, Eddie Antar, was imprisoned for eight years.

Antar complained that even if colleges do offer fraud classes, it is a suggestion – not a requirement – so most people do not take it. People tend to focus on how to handle the clients and bring in the money, he said. This puts them at a disadvantage to spot corporate crimes because they are not trained to ask the right questions, Antar said.

MU offers courses on fraud examination and forensic accounting at the graduate level. Although both courses are offered as electives, about two-thirds of the graduate students take one or both of them, said Thomas Howard, director of the School of Accountancy. Howard agreed that such classes provide “exposure that every student should have.” But he added that not all colleges are able to offer them because of the scope of topics that need to be covered in a limited time.

Antar stressed the need to verify and ask questions. He noted that 92 to 95 percent of white-collar criminals have no previous criminal record. This includes Enron founder Ken Lay and Antar himself.

A former Columbian, Lay was convicted of one of the most sprawling business frauds in U.S. history. The founder of Enron Corp. died before he could be sentenced to prison. Lay donated $1.1 million in stocks to MU in 1999 to establish an endowed chair of economics in his name. A spokeswoman from MU said the chair has not yet been filled.

Antar also observed that before he delivered his speech, the audience applauded for him. He pointed out that had he been a serial criminal or a child molester, the audience would have been throwing eggs at him instead.

“Too many people today think of white-collar crime in the abstract. The problem is, people don’t realize that white-collar crime can be just as brutal as violent crimes,” Antar said.

March 3, 2007: Wall Street Journal – My Lunch with 2 Fraudsters: Food for Thought for Investors and March 5, 2007: Marketwatch.com – What 2 Crooks Told Me Over Lunch – Commentary: “You Cannot Accept Information at Face Value”, By Herb Greenberg

My lunch with two crooks: “Hi Sammy, it’s great to see you.” Barry Minkow gave Sam E. Antar a hug as we walked to our table at a fish restaurant overlooking San Diego Bay. It was a Friday, and Antar made the trek to San Diego from Los Angeles, where he was visiting his son; a few days earlier, this convicted felon had lectured students and faculty at the Stanford Law School on how not to get taken by a crook like him.

Antar was chief financial officer of Crazy Eddie, a New York electronics retailer that in the 1970s and 1980s claimed “our prices are inSANE” as it bilked investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars. He stayed out of jail by turning on several others, including his cousin, Eddie Antar, who was Crazy Eddie’s co-founder. Minkow, on the other hand, spent seven years behind bars after stealing more than $20 million from investors in the 1980s as founder and chief executive of ZZZZ Best, a once-hot rug-cleaning company whose books could’ve used a good scrubbing.

“He’s an orthodox Jew and I’m a Jew who is a pastor,” cracks Minkow, who like Antar now spends time lecturing and working with cops to bust white-collar financial frauds. Minkow has reverence for Antar, who looks like Carla’s husband from the sitcom “Cheers” and who claims to suffer from a bipolar disorder and serious insomnia. (I can vouch for the latter because his e-mails and postings on blogs come at all hours, mostly in the middle of the night.) “Criminals don’t sleep,” he explains.

A former CPA, Antar makes no excuses for his criminal past, referring to himself in e-mails, casual discussion and his Web site — whitecollarfraud.com — as a “low life” and “convicted felon.” Even the normally loquacious Minkow appears to enjoy leaving the talking to Antar, who takes no money for his speeches. “I don’t want to be held up on the pedestal of redemption,” he says. “I would rather people learn from my vile, ugly and vicious crimes. It is most important that they understand the ugly nature of criminality. My life is a mistake of history.”

A mistake, maybe, but one other people can learn from. “Do not trust verify,” was his mantra as the meal began.

Verify what? “Everything.”

Even whether Antar and Minkow aren’t still scamming?

“Everything.”

And so it went, with Antar continuing with e-mails over several weeks.

“Watch how management handles bad quarters, earnings disappointments, criticism, skepticism and cynicism,” he says. “Do they start by saying, ‘We take full responsibility and make no excuses’ only to follow by carefully worded innuendos, excuses and deflection? Do they question the integrity of those who ask questions?”

He continues: “Just because a CEO takes a $1 salary doesn’t make that person immune to criminality. Just because I travel the country and teach the government, colleges and universities, and professional groups about white-collar crime and never collect a fee and pay out of my own pocket all travel costs, doesn’t mean I am not a criminal today. Remember that many crimes are committed without economic gain for reasons of ego, status and sheer arrogance.”

Antar says investors should do a better job “studying” financial reports, especially the footnotes and “risk factor” sections. “Notice that I used the word ‘study’ and not ‘read’ since all information is not meant to be read like a novel, but meant to be analyzed like a project.”

He adds: “Criminals are scared of skeptics and cynics,” he says. “We are petrified when you verify our representations.”

Did he ever have remorse? “Never … We simply did not care about any one of our victims. We simply committed crime because we could.

“As criminals we built false walls of integrity around us,” he adds. “We walked old ladies across the street. We built wings to hospitals. We gave huge amounts of money to charity.
We wanted you to trust us.

“Simply said … if you want to be an investor, you cannot accept information at face value. ‘Unexamined acceptance’ is the greatest cause of investor losses.”
As for Minkow? He defers to Antar.
“He’s the best,” he says.

Lunch wasn’t bad, either.

Sam Antar