The Wolf of Wall Street is not a celebrity. He's a criminal.

Jordan Belfort.

This man is many things.

A criminal.

A selfish sleazebag.

A former drug addict.

And the last person I’d ever idolise.

You see, Jordan Belfort — otherwise known as the Wolf of Wall Street — defrauded American investors out of more than $200 million.

He spent 22 months in prison for crimes related to stock market manipulation and running a “boiler room,” or a call center selling dodgy investments.

In the movie based on the conman’s life, Belfort — played with perfectly sleazy panache by Leo DiCaprio — throws a dwarf across the room like a missile, snorts cocaine off a woman’s buttcrack while slapping her repeatedly, and boasts he loves to “gamble like a degenerate, drink like a fish (and) f*ck hookers maybe five times a week.”

(Fellow famous sleazebag Dan Bilzerian claims to have witnessed the cocaine-off-buttcrack move while the pair were hanging out in real life, in case you’re interested.)

So is Jordan Belfort the sort of man you’d want your sons or brothers to emulate? The sort of kick-arse, respectful, honest human whose pearls of wisdom make the world a better place? Yeah, notsomuch.

But for some reason, journalists and the public alike seem to fawn over this guy.

Leonardo DiCaprio as Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street,

Instead of spurning him like the smug, greedy criminal he is, he’s revered like a celebrity.

As the ABC’s Media Watch pointed out on Monday, Channel Nine’s Leila McKinnon has described Belfort’s former wealth as “not bad,” gushing: “He racked up $700,000 bar tabs, owned a 50 metre yacht. Jordan Belfort, the Wolf of Wall Street, had quite a life.”

And last month, Channel Nine’s David Campbell implored Belfort to reveal how rich he was, “for those who haven’t read the book.”

(Because, of course, who WOULDN’T want to read a book that brands Belfort a “Wall Street Superman” on its front cover?)

The Australian‘s Cameron Stewart seemed similarly “dazzled” by Belfort, Media Watch notes, when he wrote last month: The Wolf of Wall Street is speeding along the Californian coast in his shiny black Mercedes SL convertible, cutting corners, flying over hills…

And the adoration doesn’t stop there.


Belfort’s also just embarked on an Australian speaking tour because, believe it or not, the guy now markets himself as a “motivational speaker.” Who reportedly makes $30,000 per talk, by lecturing audiences on ethics in business. (Yeah, that actually happens.)

A “motivational” image from Belfort’s Instagram account. Give me a break.

While some argue that it’s actually Belfort’s natural intelligence or business sense that makes him “motivational” – Piers Morgan famously argued that “(h)ad he stayed straight, many experts reckon he’d have become a billionaire anyway – such is his natural gift” — the point is that we only know his name because he didn’t “stay straight”.

So let’s be clear: Jordan Belfort is a white-collar criminal who ripped off thousands of families. And this fraudster hasn’t “come good”, either. He’s not a “changed man.”

Because while Belfort lives it up on Australia on a speaking tour, his victims are still waiting to be repaid.

Yep, he hasn’t honoured the requirement of his 2003 sentencing agreement that he give 50 per cent of his income towards the 1,513 investors he defrauded, Federal prosecutors say. In fact, while he’s supposed to be repaying a total of US$110 to those victims, so far he’s only paid back  US$11.6 million.

Meanwhile, any money he earns during his current Australian tour will go straight into his pocket: US authorities have said they would not be able to compel records from Belfort’s management in Australia to find out just how much he was making from his engagements in Australia, as reports.

Australians have always been suckers for the cult of celebrity, particularly in relation to criminals. Yep, ever since Ned Kelly was hanged for murder 130 years ago, we’ve had a tendency to hold up and even hero-worship thugs and criminals as symbols of cheeky Aussie battlerhood.

But when we’re revering a guy who ripped off struggling families to make his fortune? There’s no room for praising, or painting the guy as a larrikin maverick, a smooth and loveable outsider, or an entrepreneurial hero.

If we’re idolising conman Jordan Belfort, we’ve gone too far.

Jordan Belfort’s not the only criminal who’s enjoyed celebrity status. Here are a few others who’ve been glorified over the years:

Do you agree that it’s time to stop treating Jordan Belfort as some sort of legend?