Updated Tuesday, Dec. 16, 1:41 p.m.
He claimed to have made $72 million, but that money was as fake as his story.
Mohammed Islam, a Queens teen who was profiled in New York Magazine for making millions of dollars trading stocks during his lunch hour at Stuyvesant High School, admitted that the story was a fake and his trades were simulated, according to a published report.
In an interview with the New York Observer Monday, Islam, while in the company of a PR representative, lawyer and friend who was featured in the article, confirmed that the $72 million he was said to have earned was just a rumor. In fact, the only trading or investing he’s done has been simulated as part of the school’s investment club. He said his simulated trading would have earned eight figures if he’d actually invested real money.
“[I led her to believe] I had made even more than $72 million on the simulated trades,” he told the Observer, while speaking about the New York Magazine reporter.
After the article’s release on Monday and the ensuing media attention, the high school senior began to back off of New York Magazine’s original story.
Ahead of the Observer interview, Islam told CNBC that he did not know where the figure on his earnings came from and it wasn’t accurate. CNBC said the figure is believed to be a few million.
In an initial statement on Monday, New York Magazine said the amount was based on a rumor but Islam’s bank statements, which were provided to them, showed he made in the eight figures. They also said he confirmed on the record that he is worth eight figures. The publication then took down the $72 million amount out of the article’s headline. But following the Observer article, on Tuesday the publication admitted they were “duped,” saying: “Our fact-checking process was obviously inadequate; we take full responsibility and we should have known better. New York apologizes to our readers.”
Known as Mo, the president of the school’s investment club became a celebrity around school once word got out about his money-making talents, according to the article. He was profiled in the school paper and featured in a Business Insider list of “20 Under 20.”
He said he plans to launch his own hedge fund once he graduates and turns 18 in June, and can get his broker-dealer license. But he still has plans to attend college.
One of Mo’s friends, who was portrayed as one of his future hedge fund partners, likened him to Jordan Belfort from “The Wolf of Wall Street” and compared the group’s potential influence to that of the Koch brothers in the profile piece.
Islam made up a story he told to the magazine about how he began with penny stocks at the age of 9.
“What makes the world go round? Money,” he told New York Magazine, acting as if he were a titan of Wall Street, bragging about his bogus claims. “If money is not flowing, if businesses don’t keep going, there’s no innovation, no products, no investments, no growth, no jobs.”
In his interview with the Observer, Islam apologized for any hurt he may have caused, especially to his parents.
“Their morals are that if I lie about it and don’t own up to it then they can no longer trust me,” he said. “They knew it was false and they basically wanted to kill me and I haven’t spoken to them since.”
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