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Indonesian Journal: My Chicago Hedge Fund Manager Was A Fraud

Poof!

One of the last things I did in August before heading to O'Hare for my flight to Jakarta was to cut a check for $5,000 to a hedge fund manager and friend of my mom's named Jim Brandolino.

He'd been managing money for my mother and me for more than seven years, and his little investment pool, based on the quarterly statements he provided, was the only investment I had that was anywhere near successful.

I figured I'd park some additional savings with Brandolino while I was away earning peanuts in Indonesia and tap the funds when I got back for a security deposit and rent on a new apartment.

It seemed like a decent idea. I'd just seen Brandolino at my going-away party the month before and he was in fine fettle: The funds were plodding along, we were making better-than-modest money in a shit market, and Brandolino was working on a book to share his investment strategies with the wider world.

He bought me a beer at the party and toasted my Southeast Asian adventure. To your success, he said.

To my success! A couple weeks ago, Brandolino walked into the U.S. Attorney's Office in Chicago and confessed that his investment empire was in fact a cheap and flimsy fraud.

He mismanaged about half the money he'd been given - some of it from friends of his Italian immigrant parents in Joliet, some of it from people like my mom and me, some of it from west and southwest suburban business owners and working-class stiffs - and spent the rest of it on himself.

The quarterly statements I'd been receiving for years showing regular if sometimes small gains were pure fiction. Make-believe. Criminal.

By the time he walked into the federal building on LaSalle Street, Brandolino had frittered away almost everything he'd taken from investors and was left with little more than a used BMW 7-series, a gaudy Rolex, and an ownership stake in an unbuilt condominium in Greece.

This of course means that Brandolino bought me that drink at Schubas with my own money, and he used my money when he treated me and my girlfriend at the time and mom and my aunt to a last-minute, penthouse skybox ticket to see the Hawks play right before the playoffs last year.

Looking back on the latter, I wish he'd at least sprung for the dessert cart.

He used my money and my mom's money and the money of a couple dozen other dupes to underwrite his trips to southern Europe; to pay for an annual summer dinner cruise for investors that always featured an open bar; to pay the rent on his South Loop condo.

He used our money to promote himself and his business as the chief sponsor of an annual Misericordia fundraiser on Madison Street in Forest Park.

indohedge.jpeg

He spent it on a freelance writer who was supposed to help him complete his masterwork, Train to Trade: What Pros Do Differently. (The book title, as it appears on various websites today, has evolved. Last summer, Brandolino handed out promotional pamphlets for the still-unpublished book that had it subtitled What Pros Do Different. As folks got deeper into the open bar on the dinner cruise, they began carping about the poor grammar of the subtitle. Brandolino was polite about the criticism but clearly annoyed. This was his party, and his book, and he'd call it whatever he wanted. Or not. At some point he gave in and added the adverbial form.)

He used my money and the money of his other victims to reward himself for a life he didn't earn or deserve, and I'll be recovering from his fucking greed and avarice for a long time.

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Brett McNeil is a former Chicago Tribune reporter, Chicago Journal editor, and Fulbright English teacher living in Indonesia. He blogs at The Year of Living Volcanically - where this post first appeared - and is also the Beachwood's Southeast Asia correspondent. He is looking for job leads to help make up for his financial loss and can be contacted through the comments link below.

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Previously:
* Indonesian Journal: Buying Flowers, Burning the Koran
* Indonesian Journal: The Control State
* Indonesian Journal: The Swarm And The Sick House
* Indonesian Journal: It's Funny Until 13 People Die
* Indonesian Journal: The Chicago Way Out Of Vietnam

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Comments welcome.



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Posted on January 31, 2011


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