Real Life 'Wolf of Wall Street' Victim Pens Scathing Letter to Scorsese and DiCaprio
Christina McDowell is a hell of a writer who has a hell of a story to tell. In a recent op-ed for the LAWeekly, McDowell tells about her very personal connection to the characters portrayed in "The Wolf of Wall Street," the just-released Martin Scorsese film starring Leonardo DiCaprio.
You see, McDowell is the daughter of a man who went to jail on the testimony of the real-life wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belfort, who agreed to plead guilty to lesser charges in exchange for giving testimony against other crooked stock dealers. She begins her "open letter" like this:
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, dear Kings of Hollywood, but you have been conned.
And then goes on to explain her connection to the story:
Let me introduce myself. My name is Christina McDowell, formerly Christina Prousalis. I am the daughter of Tom Prousalis, a man the Washington Post described as "just some guy on trial for penny-stock fraud." (I had to change my name after my father stole my identity and then threatened to steal it again, but I'll get to that part later.) I was eighteen and a freshman in college when my father and his attorneys forced me to attend his trial at New York City's federal courthouse so that he "looked good" for the jury -- the consummate family man.
And you, Jordan Belfort, Wall Street's self-described Wolf: You remember my father, right? You were chosen to be the government's star witness in testifying against him. You had pleaded guilty to money laundering and securities fraud (it was the least you could do) and become a government witness in two dozen cases involving your former business associate, but my father's attorneys blocked your testimony because had you testified it would have revealed more than a half-dozen other corrupt stock offerings too. And, well, that would have been a disaster. It would have just been too many liars, and too many schemes for the jurors, attorneys or the judge to follow.
But the records shows you and my father were in cahoots together with MVSI Inc. of Vienna, e-Net Inc. of Germantown, Md., Octagon Corp. of Arlington, Va., and Czech Industries Inc. of Washington, D.C., and so on -- a list of seemingly innocuous, legitimate companies that stretches on. I'll spare you. Nobody cares. None of these companies actually existed, yet all of them were taken public by the one and only Wolf of Wall Street and his firm Stratton Oakmont Inc in order to defraud unwitting investors and enrich yourselves.
As an eighteen-year-old, I had no idea what was going on. But then again, did anyone? Certainly your investors didn't -- and they were left holding the bag when you cashed out your holdings and got rich off their money.
Clearly McDowell has much to work through in terms of her father's total betrayal of her and her family, but she also takes the filmmakers to task for making a movie that glorifies and glamorizes "the Wolf of Wall Street." Many many people were hurt by this glamorized characters, she points out. In fact, greedy actions like those portrayed in the film, and which take place in real life, leave widespread collateral damage and sometimes tank entire economies. She continues with her story:
So Marty and Leo, while you glide through press junkets and look forward to awards season, let me tell you the truth -- what happened to my mother, my two sisters, and me.
The day my father had to surrender to prison, I drove him. My mother had locked herself in the bathroom crying and throwing up, becoming nothing short of a more beautiful version of Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine. Ironically enough, Marty, she looks like a cross between Sharon Stone and Michelle Pfeiffer. Totally your leading ingÃ©nue type. Anyhow, after my father successfully laundered money in my name, hiding what was left of our assets from the government in a Wells Fargo bank account, I arrived home to discover multiple phone calls from creditors and attorneys threatening to sue me. He'd left me in nearly $100,000 worth of debt. He left and never told me.
After all of that liquidated money was gone from the Wells Fargo bank account, things got pretty bad. My younger sister ran away at seventeen. My older sister struggled to finish school in Texas. I couch surfed for two years, sometimes dressing out of my car and stealing pieces of salami out of my boyfriends' refrigerators in the middle of the night, because I was so hungry and so ashamed that I couldn't feed myself. Tips at the restaurant weren't cutting it. It's a pretty confusing experience to go from flying private with Dad to an evening where he's begging you for a piece of your paycheck so he can buy food for dinner.
Then she gets to her point about the film, addressing Scorsese and DiCaprio:
So here's the deal. You people are dangerous. Your film is a reckless attempt at continuing to pretend that these sorts of schemes are entertaining, even as the country is reeling from yet another round of Wall Street scandals. We want to get lost in what? These phony financiers' fun sexcapades and coke binges? Come on, we know the truth. This kind of behavior brought America to its knees.
And yet you're glorifying it -- you who call yourselves liberals. You were honored for career excellence and for your cultural influence by The Kennedy Center, Marty. You drive a Honda hybrid, Leo. Did you think about the cultural message you'd be sending when you decided to make this film? You have successfully aligned yourself with an accomplished criminal, a guy who still hasn't made full restitution to his victims, exacerbating our national obsession with wealth and status and glorifying greed and psychopathic behavior. And don't even get me started on the incomprehensible way in which your film degrades women, the misogynistic, ass-backwards message you endorse to younger generations of men.
But hey, listen boys, I get it. I was conned too. By. My. Own. Dad! I drove a white Range Rover in high school, snorted half of Colombia, and got any guy I ever wanted because my father would take them flying in his King Air.
Finally, she points out that the film will help Jordan Belfort and his business opportunities will no doubt multiply as a result, while his victims are left destitute, unable to pay medical bills, unable to send their kids to college, and elderly.
She ends by urging people not to see the film, and a little P.S.
Quick update on Dad: He is now doing business with the Albanian government and, rumor has it, married to a 30-year-old Albanian translator -- they always, always land on their feet.