WADOO!!NEWS: I was the wife of a Wall Street ‘Wolf’
Nancy Porush with husband Danny at a 1991 wedding of a Stratton Oakmont employee.
Married for 12 years to financier Danny Porush, mom of three Nancy Porush, 52, of Woodbury, LI, led a life of jaw-dropping extravagance. But unknown to her, Danny’s fortune was based on a scam. He was a member of the so-called “Wolf Pack,” the infamous gang of rogue dealers who cheated Wall Street investors out of $200 million in the mid-’90s. Now, as the story behind the massive securities con has been turned into “The Wolf of Wall Street,” a blockbuster movie directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, opening Dec. 25, Nancy opens up for the first time about her marriage to the convicted fraudster, who served three years in jail and was released in 2004. As told to Doree Lewak.
Standing on a table gesturing to his friends to pour a bottle of Champagne down his throat, my husband, Danny, looked across and winked at me as I watched silently from the sun-lounger.
He was having the time of his life whooping it up with his buddies in the Hamptons, showing off his flashy Rolex watch and bragging to the young guns in his brokerage how much fun money can buy.
As for me, eight months pregnant and hardly in the mood for a party, I couldn’t help wondering what had happened to the simple guy I’d first married, whose idea of a good time had once been grilling in the backyard with a beer in his hand.
But this frat-house lifestyle is what his existence had become. As a broker, Danny was raking in huge amounts of cash and spending it like crazy. I saw him morph from a nice wholesome guy into showy narcissist whom I hardly recognized anymore.
It was all about getting these young hungry guys pumped up to become players. “Look how much money we make!” Danny was saying. “This could be yours someday, too!”
Little did I know that the money he was earning was dirty. Five years later, the party ended with a jolt. He was investigated by the feds and, along with his boss Jordan Belfort, known as “The Wolf of Wall Street, ” convicted of money laundering and securities fraud and jailed.
When I first met Danny in 1984, he ran a bike-messenger business in the city. It was soon after I returned from college in Miami to my childhood home in Mill Basin, Brooklyn. One night, I was invited to a fancy black-tie party in the city, and he was there. I was immediately drawn to the smooth-talking 27-year-old man before me. I was 22, looking to have fun in the disco era, and I couldn’t help but be impressed with him. That night, a group of us left the stuffy party and danced the night away at Studio 54. He had his own apartment in the city, was very cute — blond hair, blue eyes — and was so in love with me. He liked to move fast.
He asked me to come work for his company, and I did. He was incredibly persistent, the master of talking the talk.
Nevertheless, we liked the simple things — taking drives upstate to see the foliage and go apple-picking. One weekend, a year after we started dating, we were upstate at some cheap hotel, and he asked me to marry him. It was a tiny ring, but I didn’t care. I was 23, and all my friends were getting married and pregnant. I guess I felt the pressure to follow suit.
We had a huge wedding planned for 200 guests, and the invitations were already in the mail, but I had major doubts. I was young and got cold feet and called the whole thing off. But, when you’re in the grip of the greatest salesman on Earth, you get pulled back in. He’d bought us a two-bedroom apartment to live in as a married couple, and would call me with updates on how he was decorating it.
“I can’t live there without you, Nancy,” he’d plead. “We’re meant to be together.” He wouldn’t take no for an answer. Seven months later he sold me — Danny won me back, and the wedding was back on track.
Then: Nancy and her husband Danny, pictured here at a Stratton Oakmont holiday party in 1993, enjoyed the many trappings of wealth and good fortune.Photo: Paul Prince Photo.com
It took place in January 1986 when I was 24 years old. The day before the wedding, I convinced myself I was having a heart attack because I was having such scary palpitations. I drove to the cardiologist. He examined me and dismissed it. He said: ‘Don’t worry, you’re getting married tomorrow. It’s normal to be anxious.’ I went through with the wedding but, looking back, I should have trusted my gut feeling.
We moved into a two-bedroom apartment in the Bay Club in Bayside, Queens. It was a young, friendly, social building — like an extended dorm for young people starting their lives. But the commute to the city each day was hard because I became pregnant right away. There was a nice boy from our building on the same bus who always gave up his seat for me. His name was Jordan Belfort, and he worked in finance. I always liked Jordan. I’d see him at the gym in the building, and he was so friendly. I’d see how in love he was with his wife, Denise.
I pushed Danny to talk to Jordan. By now, he was struggling with his latest venture, a private ambulette business, and I thought Jordan, who looked like a successful young man working in the city, could help him.
After just one conversation, Danny came back and announced he was taking the Series 7 exam to get his stockbroker’s license. He studied in the library for two weeks and passed the test. Jordan helped him get a job at the company where he worked.
Up until then, Danny never seemed to care about money. We had an ugly beige leather couch, and we lived like any other new couple starting out. Our big honeymoon trip to Hawaii was a huge deal — and only after months and months of saving could we afford it.
But, almost as soon as he began working with Jordan, making big bucks became an obsession. One day Danny came home, all pumped up. “Guess what?” he said. “I just made $30,000 for the firm! We should be running the show!”
That’s when Jordan started his own business called Stratton Oakmont based in Lake Success, LI, and brought on Danny as his No. 2. They wanted a bigger piece. Greed, power and control overtook everything.
After a little while, Jordan and Danny started making serious money.
We bought a five-bedroom house in Oyster Bay Cove on Long Island’s North Shore on two acres of land, with a pool and tennis court. Danny sunk hundreds of thousands into it, blowing it out. Our second son’s bris in 1990 was as glamorous as a wedding. We had over 100 guests dressed to the nines — mostly Stratton guys and always talking business.
Danny bought me a big white Mercedes, even though I preferred driving around in my little minivan. We had so many cars, Bentleys, a private plane, a beach house in the Hamptons and another in Palm Beach. It was an embarrassment of riches.
Jordan Belfort (from left), second wife Nadine, Nancy Porush and husband Danny at a Syosset, LI restaurant in the early 1990s.Photo: Paul Prince Photo.com
We certainly lived large. We could fly anywhere. There were trips to private islands off Miami, chartered flights to Anguilla and St. Barts and $100,000 hotel bills. It was like spending Monopoly money.
Danny could have made tens of millions a year, but I didn’t know it. Most of it was stashed overseas, and the financial side of things was always left to him.
Meanwhile, Danny would take me to the fanciest jewelry stores, where we were ushered in like royalty. He’d buy me an over-the-top diamond necklace and matching bracelet. I never even knew how much anything cost — Danny never bothered to look at price tags, but this set was probably tens of thousands. You get used to the good life. He’d always hand me thick stacks of cash and tell me to go shopping and enjoy myself.
But I always stayed close to my roots and my old childhood friends from Brooklyn. We did the same old things we always did, except now the Chicago concerts at Jones Beach were chauffeured by my limo driver. I would take my girlfriends into the city, and we’d go to Barney’s on a shopping spree, and I’d buy them whatever they wanted.
Danny insisted on hiring full-time bodyguards who followed me everywhere because he was always worried about our safety.
Sometimes Danny would come home and tell me about all the good work the firm was doing. “We’re investing in a company that’s helping the environment,” he once said. Another time, he said: “Thanks to me and Jordan, 200 people have just been taken on in new jobs.” It felt great to know that the wealth was being spread around and the economy was booming because of guys like Danny.
Our social life often involved Jordan, who once sailed on a rented 170-foot yacht and liked it so much that he bought it. It must have cost more than all of our childhood homes combined. We’d sail with him and his new wife, Nadine (by then, Denise was out of the picture), to Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, all these gorgeous locations I never dreamed I’d ever get to see. When we’d arrive at port in this regal yacht, people would stare at us like we’re movie stars.
Danny and Nancy, pictured here on a 1994 winter vacation on St Kitts-and-Nevis whooped it up on luxury trips and even owned a private plane. “You get used to the good life,” says Nancy, who was pregnant with her third child in this photo.Photo: Paul Prince Photo.com
And we kept sailing along on the good life.
But there was a dark side. Danny changed with money; he’d frequently stay out late at night, saying he had a business meeting in the city that he couldn’t get out of. I was a young mom with two babies. I’m not stupid or naive — but I really didn’t know what was going on. I was home watching “Sesame Street” with our sons.
I stayed as far away from that scene as possible, but there were also the notorious Stratton parties, like the one when I was pregnant in the Hamptons, when everything was so loud and ostentatious. I’ll always remember watching Danny posturing and posing, acting like a high roller and wondering whether I really knew him at all.
Meanwhile, Danny often had me sign different papers, stock certificates and these confusing legal documents. I trusted my husband — why wouldn’t I? — but I didn’t know I was signing my life away. I now know he was putting assets in my name as part of the fraud he was committing.
By now it was 1995 and, all the while, Danny and Jordan were being investigated by Nasdaq. Some disgruntled clients had filed lawsuits, and red flags were being raised about the huge profits that Stratton was raking in.
Unbeknownst to me, Danny and Jordan’s firm was a classic “pump and dump” operation — manipulation of the markets where prices are artificially inflated and stock promptly sold off. Big-time investors were being ripped off and the little people, too.
But they always managed to keep one step ahead of the law, shutting down companies and opening up a new one under a different name.
The first time things really spiraled out of control was Labor Day weekend of 1997, the day after we’d moved to Danny’s new operating base in Boca Raton, Fla., where he’d been working for a year.
There was a relentless rain, and I was in the kitchen busy preparing the kids for their first day of school. The phone rang, and it was Danny calling from his office. “You have to get here right away,” Danny said, adding that he’d been busted by the FBI. “They’re taking me to jail.”
Nancy and Jordan are all smiles at the 1991 wedding of one of Jordan and Danny’s co-workers. Nancy actually introduced Danny to Jordan in the mid-’80s when they lived in the same apartment building in Bayside, Queens.Photo: Paul Prince Photo.com
“What do you mean, the FBI?” I answered. “That’s something you see on TV!” My life is PTA, not FBI.
Visiting him in prison in Palm Beach was like a bad dream. In his prison clothes, he was doing what he does best: selling me. He was totally calm and kept trying to reassure me that it’s going to be OK, that he’s going to get out of it.
Jordan, arrested the day before, got out on $10 million bail, but Danny, Mr. Private Plane, was considered a flight risk and denied bail. He was shuttled back to New York and held in the Brooklyn Detention Center for more than three months. The whole time he was incarcerated, the kids (we had three by then) thought he was in Europe on business. And when everyone asked where Danny was, that’s what I told them, too. How do you admit to people your husband’s in jail for massive fraud?
During that time, we never so much as received a phone call from Jordan. So much for best friends — it was all about the money. I later found out that all the Stratton guys got such little jail time because they ratted each other out to save themselves. So much for thick as blood — it was like the TV series “Survivor.”
But still I stuck by Danny. Even if he had done wrong, he was still my husband and the father of my children.
In winter 1997, we got word that Danny was being released from prison. We had a big welcome home dinner with steaks and started figuring out his defense. We tried to be a family again, and I was full of hope for the future and how we were going to put this behind us.
But in April 1998, he dropped a bombshell on me.
“I’m in love with another woman,” he announced. “She’s having my baby, and I’m divorcing you!” It all happened so fast.
Turns out that while he’d been putting in family face time on weekends in New York, he’d been having an affair during the week in Florida. I couldn’t believe it. I’d stood by him through all the drama and all the lawsuits and he thanked me by cheating on me.
Nancy and Danny on November 20, 1993 during a family vacation to Disney World.Photo: Paul Prince Photo.com
In 1999, Danny pleaded guilty to security fraud and money laundering. He was sentenced to 39 months in prison. I remember watching the coverage of the case on TV and he wore Louis Vuitton sneakers. It’s a long way from the young, sweet guy who wore Levi’s proudly and a million miles away from the simple life we once knew.
As for me, I went through hell. All of our homes were seized and foreclosed. I was called before the FCC, FBI, SEC and the US government. My name was dragged into everything because so much of the paperwork implicated me. I fought so many people that I don’t even know whom I was fighting. I’ve been sued so many times — all related to Danny losing people’s money.
It was an endless parade of law suits, battles against people I didn’t even know. Servers would knock at my door on a weekly basis with huge stacks of papers. I was even served the morning of my first son’s bar mitzvah. I asked the guy to kindly to come back another time, that I was busy.
There were many victims Danny defrauded — but I was one of them. And the government validated that. Legally, I too was a victim.
I sold off everything to support my family — teaching yoga and pilates, selling clothes, skin care, anything to provide for the kids. We kept downsizing — to townhouses and garden apartments. Instead of private planes to exotic islands, I shop for JetBlue specials. After returning to reality, my monthly rent seems so expensive — but it’s probably half of what the car payments were when I was married to Danny.
Meanwhile Danny was released from jail in 2004 and lives in Boca Raton with his new wife in a multimillion dollar mansion. He started a medical supplies company and is doing really well. He still sees our kids and I heard through the grapevine he has Robert De Niro’s personal chef. In fact, I hear all these guys from Stratton live it up more now than they did even back then.
I got nothing, not even alimony, and I didn’t want anything — I just wanted out.
Today I’m very happy. I’m seeing a man who is gentle, kind — who values the right things, including me. And I trust him. I’ve fought so much, and I’m sick of fighting anymore.
Danny Porush’s current home in Florida.Photo: Paul Prince Photo.com
This is the first time in my life that I finally have peace — no debt, no battling for child support. Danny has no control over me now, but this new movie is stirring things up again and revisiting terrible memories.
The trailers are all over the place, even on commercials for “The Voice.”
It’s not every day you can say your life — and everything you want to forget and bury about the past — is going to be a film. There’s a lot of buzz about it. Can you imagine Jonah Hill is going to win an Oscar playing my stupid ex-husband? Jonah said to Vanity Fair, “I have a feeling I’m playing the most evil man on the planet.”
It’s entertainment to people, but not to the little old lady who lost her life savings at their greedy hands. People who lost all their money aren’t going to find this a fun popcorn flick.
I hope young kids aren’t going to look at their glorified lives and want to be a stockbroker too. Greed is not good — it’s ugly. The more money, the more problems. Too much of anything is never good. But the past is the past, and my kids and I have a bright future.
Posted on December 28, 2013, in NEWS and tagged Danny, Jordan, Jordan Belfort, Leonardo DiCaprio, Martin Scorsese, Stratton Oakmont, Wall Street, Wolf of Wall Street. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.