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Rock Street, San Francisco

When Chris Varick came to New York for a chance to live his dream, he never imagined it would be this way. He knew it was the highest level he could work at as a stockbroker but he never imagined the world that he would become part of. A world where work was fun and having fun was serious. Money was what it was all about. Money was not the fun part but making it was. And for the stockbrokers at JT Marlin this was what it was all about. Cutting the deal, making the sale. And with every deal came the fat commissions. This is how it operated.

The firm was totally comprised of twenty-five to thirty-five year olds. Young, hungry and rich. Each of these young men was making millions for the firm and themselves. They lived in luxury apartments, drove Bentleys and Ferraris and wore four figure suits to work everyday. Chris grew up in a modest house on the outskirts of Mitchellton, Pennsylvania. His father drove a truck for his uncle’s farm. His mother worked as a nurse at the metropolitan hospital. At age twelve Chris devoted himself to a higher calling reading the Wall Street Journal. His new passion left his working class folks disoriented.

By tenth grade, Chris was using the money he’d earned on his parent’s farm to play the stockmarket. The share’s tanked but Chris was addicted. Chris finished School at the top of the class and won a scholarship to Columbia Business School where he did an undergraduate in Finance and Economics. After he finished his degree he traveled to New York in search of a career in Stockbroking. After attending three interviews he was recruited by a small firm called JT Marlin. At first Chris thought that he had landed himself a traditional broking job but he soon found himself working with funds unimaginable before.

With the NASDAQ peaking and The Dow Jones index approaching fifteen thousand points everybody wanted a piece of the action. Within months of working at JT Marlin Chris was working with his own clients. These clients were young professionals who had all the money in the world but not a clue what to do with it, so they threw it at the stockmarket like it was a speeding train. One client even offered Chris his beachside mansion in the Hamptons to spend the summer. His clients became friends and his friends became clients. Chris was doing well but there where others at the firm that where doing even better.

Some brokers who had been working just months longer than Chris were doing one hundred and fifty thousand dollars a month in commission and that was the level that he wanted to be operating at. His nights were usually spent in the city’s exclusive clubs where the rich and famous socialized. It was nothing for Chris to spend a couple of thousand a night on Cristal champagne when entertaining clients. Chris didn’t drink and he didn’t smoke but he had one weakness: women. In high school, he was too shy to ask a girl to the prom, but by the time he graduated he had hired his first prostitute.

Just after his one year anniversary of working at JT Marlin he left his job to Mitchellton where he started his own Hedge Fund: Ashbury Capital Partners. When visiting New York to recruit clients, he’d checked into the presidential suite at the Plaza Hotel Which served as a base camp for ten thousand dollar treks to the city’s strip clubs. After a year of living the life of a playboy, Chris began looking for something more meaningful. Then came the May 1999 issue of Playboy where he caught glimpse of the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. Her name was Sandy Bentley.

One of his clients introduced them and the rest was history. The second he met her he offered to buy her a car and within a month of making good on that promise he bought her a two hundred thousand dollar Mercedes Benz SL500, a six hundred thousand dollar house in her hometown of Las Vegas and gave her access to his American Express account. Chris’s friends thought he was crazy but Chris thought it was a bargain getting one of Hugh Hefner’s girls for under a million. Hardly. Within six month’s Sandy had put four hundred thousand on her Credit Card.

December of 1999 was a kind of turning point for Chris, he bought himself a new $1. 6 million Bell 407 helicopter, laser surgery did away with his glasses and he began working out. With his official fortune now at ten million, even his diet had changed. Chris was splashing money around messily and his obsession with Sandy grew. If he and Sandy weren’t together, they were on the phone. He always had to know where she was, what she was doing and who she was with. At times he even had private detectives follow her around town on her shopping trips.

Sandy and Chris were fighting now. There was a spat in Cancun, Mexico and silences in the chopper on the way home. They broke up but got back together. At the same time, Chris was recruiting money from firms such as Morgan Stanley Dean Witter and Merrill Lynch, and getting ready to lease office space on Park Avenue. But as he was working towards the one billion dollar hedge fund he had registered with the SEC, things turned sour. On hearing of Chris’s endless gifts to Bentley, several of his clients began to worry.

He assured them everything was fine and they watched their climb. By June 2000 the markets were trading at their lowest level since the 1987 crash. Chris stopped trading. To cover his losses he produced false trading reports. Although his portfolio withered, he couldn’t contain himself. That summer he spent twenty-two million in a single month and his forth of July picnic was on Capri. Chris continued to chase new clients to cover his debt. In August a New Jersey lawyer invested sixteen million with Ashbury Capital Partners and two weeks after that another ten million.

Chris was getting out of control, he had ordered a ten-carat diamond from Tiffany’s worth more than half a million dollars. On payment his credit card bounced. He was arrested by the FBI for on fraud charges. With Chris’s adventure over he moved back to Mitchellton. His clothes no longer shined, he was penniless and his Bunny was gone. But after blowing some fifty million and earning himself two federal felony fraud charges, his lawyers were able to negotiate a plea bargain. The last four years of Chris’s life taught him something he didn’t learn in school: If it makes you it can break you.

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