Media – 2009

Favorite Media Interviews and Mentions

November 2009: Newsweek 20/10 Bernie Madoff’s Giant Ponzi Scheme, By Sam Antar

Madoff was a serial economic predator for 20 years and the only reason he stopped was because he got caught. He didn’t get caught because of the SEC and the auditors. It was our imploding financial system. More than three quarters of these kinds of schemes are found out not during the execution but during the implosion. The SEC has less than one 10th of the power as the NYPD and they have to police the capital markets. That’s why we’re going to continue having these crimes over and over again. We had skimmed money for about 15 years before we went public at Crazy Eddie. After we went public, we just put back some of our skimmed money as sales. Just like the SEC with Madoff, our auditors never really followed the money. Our auditors trusted but didn’t really verify, when they should have not trusted and only verified.

October 9, 2009: CNN.com – Financial fraud 101 — Accounting for criminals, By Kevin Voigt

So Antar would pair “cute hot female” employees with male auditors as part of his distraction strategy. “In effect, I was a fraudster, matchmaker and pimp,” said Antar, who avoided jail time by working with the U.S. government, and now advises government agencies and businesses on avoiding accounting fraud.

October 4, 2009: Crain’s New York Business – Crazy Like a Fox, By Aaron Elstein – (Download)

Sam E. Antar knows a thing or three about fraud. He was chief financial officer at Crazy Eddie, the infamous appliance retailer with “insaaaaane” prices that skimmed profits, evaded taxes, laundered cash and fudged inventories for a Madoff-esque 15 years before collapsing in 1987.

Mr. Antar pleaded guilty to conspiracy and obstruction of justice charges, but avoided jail by turning against the relatives who ran the business with him. He was the government’s star witness at a 1993 trial. His cousin, Chief Executive Eddie Antar, ultimately went to prison for about seven years.

Now Sam Antar, 52, is using the expertise he gained as a criminal to uncover accounting problems at other companies. Exhibit A for him these days is Overstock.com Inc.,an online retailer with a recent history of accounting issues.

[Snip]

Despite his felonious past, Sam Antar has earned credibility with law enforcement officials. He’s spent much of the past decade talking to the FBI, the Justice Department, the IRS, accounting students and business groups, explaining how Crazy Eddie fooled auditors for so long.The former CPA says he feels bad about what he did and wants to help overmatched investigators as they try to root out savvy fraudsters.

“He knows accounting backwards and forwards,” says Richard Simpson, an SEC attorney who helped lead the government’s probe into Crazy Eddie.

October 2, 2009: CNN.com – Redemption and the white collar criminal, By Kevin Voigt

Another convicted white-collar felon, Sam Antar, is more circumspect on the subject of redemption. Although he now lectures government organizations and businesses about white-collar crime, he stops short of saying he’s “reformed.”

“If I tell you I’m not a criminal any more, should you really believe me?” said Antar, who cooked the books in a multi-million securities fraud in the 1980s. “White-collar criminals wrap themselves around a wall of false integrity.”

As more white-collar criminals get collared, questions surrounding rehabilitation will likely grow, too.

October 2, 2009: CNN.com – Suicide, lies, and videotape: The real “Informant!”, By Kevin Voigt

And as Whitacre showed, whistle blowers often don’t have noble motives. “The movie should be taken very, very seriously,” said Sam Antar, a CPA who turned government witness against his employer in the 1980’s.

“In white-collar cases, the governments have to rely on informants … in effect, relying on unsavory characters to make their case,” said Antar, who now advises government agencies on white-collar crime.

“What happened in ‘The Informant,’ is he had an agenda to become head honcho of the company,” Antar said. “The mistake the FBI agents made in the movie is they fell in love with their witness. It turned out there was a dark side they didn’t know about.”

September 23, 2009: Jewish Week – Still Searching For Repentance, By Adam Dickter

When Sam Antar recites the viduy list of sins in the Yom Kippur liturgy Monday, it will be a like a checklist of his past.

He has stolen. He has cheated. He has betrayed. He has caused others to sin.

And by his own admission, he loved every minute of it.

“I enjoyed committing my crimes, and I did it for fun and profit,” says the former chief financial officer of the Crazy Eddie electronics chain, who helped bilk customers, investors and the government out of hundreds of millions of dollars.

August 26, 2009: Jewish Daily Forward – ‘Crazy’ Eddie’s Cousin, a Former Fraudster, Speaks Out on Syrian ‘Subculture of Crime’, By Rebecca Dube

Sam E. Antar wants you to know up front: He’s no hero.

The former chief financial officer of Crazy Eddie Inc. whose testimony helped convict his cousin, Eddie Antar, in 1993 takes an almost gleeful tone when confessing his sins. He lied. He committed fraud. He skimmed money. He misled investigators. And when he came clean, providing the information and testimony that helped topple the fraudulent Crazy Eddie empire, he did so only to save himself from prison.

“I committed my crimes, and I did it for fun and profit,” Antar, 52, said in a recent interview with the Forward at a diner in midtown Manhattan. “And if I stopped committing my crimes, it was only because I got caught. So I’m not going to pretend to you to be some kind of born-again moral person.”

Still, as a reformed criminal — he teaches seminars to the IRS, the Justice Department and other organizations on how to combat white-collar crime — as well as a lifelong member of Brooklyn’s Syrian Jewish community, Antar offers a unique perspective on the current scandal involving allegations of money laundering by three prominent Syrian rabbis, part of an FBI investigation that led to 44 arrests in July. And he’s not shy about sharing his opinions.

August 17, 2009: Atlantic City Press – Crazy Eddie’s cousin stars in Republican hearing on corruption, By Derek Harper

Wiry, animated and admittedly corrupt, Antar got laughs when he took his seat and thanked the five Republican assemblymen on the panel “for inviting the only member of the criminal class.”

When political consultant George Dredden suggested regular polygraph tests for state politicians, Antar supported it, saying they should be used for anti-corruption screenings. He said Crazy Eddie staffers were regularly subject to polygraph exams to ensure they were not revealing their schemes to law enforcement officials.

Antar also advocated paying bounties to whistle-blowers.

But he said the best thing to reduce corruption would be putting a greater emphasis on white-collar crime investigations, coupled with greater available information and increased business disclosure.

With the number of victims, white-collar crime is more socially devastating than almost any other crime, he said.

August 11, 2009: Dow Jones Newswires – DJ in the Money: Critics Claim InterOil Misled Investors, By Michael Rapoport

Antar called InterOil’s statements “a false and misleading disclosure, or an omission of a material fact.”

July 28, 2009: Jewish Week – Syrian Community Moving To Limit Damage After Sting

But last week’s arrests may be the tip of the iceberg, says a former businessman in the community who has been on the wrong side of federal prosecutions.?

“This was one guy who turned in 44 people,” said Sam Antar. “When you have 44 people worried about going to jail, some of them are going to turn in other people. That’s what the government does. It flips witnesses.”?

Antar, who provided evidence against his cousin, Eddie Antar, in the Crazy Eddie investor fraud case of the late 1980s, says the desire to stay out of jail should not be underestimated as a motivating factor. His own testimony as chief financial officer of the electronics chain put Eddie Antar and another cousin in jail and resulted in Sam being fined and sentenced to community service. “There are 300 agents on this case, and they are not going away after the 44 arrests,” says Antar, who now lectures to companies and law enforcement about white-collar crime.

Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Marra, told The Jewish Week in an e-mail: “For those who were charged last week, the next step in the process is to present their cases to the grand jury for potential indictment. … We do not say in advance that we anticipate charging other individuals.”?

While insisting the vast majority of Syrian Jews are law-abiding, Antar said that the community’s tight-knit, insular nature, the amount of interconnected families and the deep level of trust provide a natural framework for keeping secrets.

“You have here an alleged crime that was committed by a group of people who shared several common characteristics,” said Antar. “Religion, race, ethnicity and social background. It’s no different than other organized conspirators, like the mob, the Eastern European gangsters, the South American cartels. When you build bonds between people, their crimes can go undetected for very long periods of time.”

July 24, 2009: New York Times – Brooklyn Blogs Buzzing With Talk About Rabbis, By Paul Vitello

For Sam E. Antar, a Brooklyn-born member of the Sephardic community who went to prison for business fraud and now advises law enforcement agencies and companies on how to detect white-collar crime, the blogger’s question pointed to the essence of organized fraud: the total trust among participants.

“I’m not saying these guys, I’m just saying in general — but in every organized white-collar crime, you have to have a group of people bound by relationships that everybody believes are indestructible,” said Mr. Antar, 62, who was the chief financial officer of the Crazy Eddie discount electronics chain and the cousin of its namesake, Eddie Antar, who was also convicted of fraud.

Being tight-knit — normally considered a plus for any group — “that can work both ways,” he said. Cautioning again that he was speaking hypothetically, he added: “When the F.B.I. gets a good grip on a guy who belongs to a network like that, it’s like, they can pull the string and the whole thing unravels.”

July 22, 2009: Jewish Week – UPDATED: Syrian Jewish Insider: “Not Surprised” by Arrest of Prominent Rabbis in Breaking FBI Investigation

Sam Antar, the former CFO of the Crazy Eddy TV and appliance empire who went to jail in that fraud case, now holds seminars for federal agencies – including the IRS – on the ins and outs of white-collar crime.

Antar told The Jewish Week that “Most people in this community are law-abiding hard-working Americans and the alleged actions of a few people are no reflection on the entire community. But I’m not surprised when I see this kind of thing happen.”

Small, tight-knit communities such as the Syrian Jewish enclave in New Jersey and Brooklyn are are particularly prone to white-collar crime, he said.

“It happens all the time in all kinds of closed, insular communities, and these crimes are the toughest to crack,” he said. “The people are bound not just by economic incentives, but cultural, religious, ethnic and family ties. They tend to be highly coordinated, and they can take years to investigate.”

Antar predicted that when the dust settles “hundreds” of people could be implicated.

April 10, 2009: Baltimore Business Journal – Take it from a real thief: Ask a lot of questions before investing your cash, By Heather Harlan Warnack

Sammy Antar stole the show.

The former chief financial officer of Crazy Eddie Inc., who masterminded a major securities fraud in the 1980s, recently served as a panelist for a financial crimes conference I attended in New York.

“My name is Sammy Antar, and I’m a crook,” he said during an April 1 session at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

What an opener. “You can steal more with a smile than you can with a gun,” Antar continued.

He’s right. Just ask Bernie Madoff and Sir Allen Stanford. Not to mention their victims, some of whom are right here in Maryland. So how were these and other “businessmen” allowed to get away with it? To put it simply, they preyed on the public’s trust and lack of understanding.

April 10, 2009: Sacramento Bee – Ponzi schemes flourish with vulnerable victims, underfunded watchdogs, By Andrew McIntosh

With a twisted, toothy sort of grin, he especially likes to greet a room full of perfect strangers with: “Hi, I’m Sam Antar, and I’m a crook.”

Antar wants you to understand how Ponzi operators and fraudsters steal money by taking advantage of “nice people” for years, only to be arrested after their schemes collapse and lives are wrecked.

“Criminals like me consider your humanity a weakness to be exploited in the execution of our crimes,” Antar told participants at a recent conference at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. “We can steal more money with a smile than we can steal with a gun.”

His unvarnished message is an unnerving but timely one: It seems a new Ponzi scheme is unraveling every day, a Bernie Madoff lurking at every turn.

March 2, 2009: New York Post – IT’S IN-SAANE! ‘VILE’ CRAZY EDDIE RETURNING WITH NEW OWNER, By Rebecca Rosenberg

Bringing Crazy Eddie back is downright loony, says Sam Antar, the nephew of founder Eddie Antar and the CFO who helped cook the books and spent six months in house arrest for it. Eddie skipped to Israel, was extradited and spent 7½ years in prison.

“Imagine starting a new investment firm called Bernie Madoff or a corporation by the name of Enron? It’s nuts,” said Sam Antar.

“The name has a vile, ugly history – because of the crimes we committed. We lost investors millions of dollars.”

February 11, 2009: Conde Nast Portfolio (March Issue) – Preventing the Next Bernie Madoff by Gary Weiss

A second variety of organizational deviants identified by Sherman—the ones with “goals that are deviant from societal norms or laws”—is the group Madoff obviously belongs to, as do the deceitful boiler-room subprime-lending operators that encouraged people to lie on their mortgage applications to get the deals done. Sam Antar, a convicted securities swindler, believes people like Madoff often don’t set out to become criminals. “He just started the scam and then it built on itself and he couldn’t get out,” suggests Antar, who served as chief financial officer of consumer-electronics retailer Crazy Eddie in the 1980s, when it was involved in several fraudulent schemes; now he lectures law enforcement on how to prevent white-collar crime.

Police corruption thrives when the watchdogs—the municipal government and the senior police officials—are indifferent or ineffective. Antar says the parallels with the Securities and Exchange Commission are compelling. The failures of its enforcement staff, starved for resources under chairman Christopher Cox, mirror the inability in past years to confront police corruption. Those failures were documented by Sherman and chronicled in such books as Robert Daley’s Prince of the City and Peter Maas’ Serpico, the story of a whistleblower (played by Al Pacino in the 1978 film) who fought NYPD corruption. Recently, the SEC’s handling of whistleblowers has also come under scrutiny because of the way it ignored Harry Markopolos, who had tried again and again since 2000 to call the agency’s attention to Madoff and his family.

Sam Antar