If it’s wrong to speak ill of the dead, what of the nearly-dead, or the possibly dead? ABC News reported on Monday that Bayou Group co-founder Samuel Israel failed to report to prison to begin serving a 20-year sentence for defrauding investors in his hedge fund and may instead have committed suicide. New York State Police found a car registered to Mr. Israel parked on the Bear Mountain Bridge over the Hudson River. They also found what ABC News called a “rambling suicide note.”
New York State Trooper Bruce Cuccia acknowledged in an interview with HedgeWorld what several people commenting on the ABC News story suspected: that Mr. Israel didn’t jump into the Hudson; more likely he’s fled the country.
Either way he’ll have company in the form of other hedge fund fraudsters. There is a proud tradition of fleeing the United States with ill-gotten gain. Gotta get to Mexico with the stolen gold. Gotta get to the Caribbean with the stolen bank money. Wire my theft proceeds to a numbered account in ZĂĽrich.
More recently, it seems, and perhaps symptomatic of some kind of cultural shift in the United States, the fraudsters are offing themselves rather than making a run for it. Kirk Wright, the founder of International Management Associates, who bilked numerous investorsâ€”including several National Football League playersâ€”out of millions, committed suicide in a Georgia jail cell before he could start serving his prison sentence. Dan Marino (no, not THAT one, THIS one) wrote a suicide note detailing his indiscretions at Bayou, although he never actually did the deed.
A strange part of me hopes Mr. Israel did flee. I’d rather think of him out there on the lam than floating face-down in the Hudson. And concocting a scheme whereby you leave your car and a fake suicide note on a bridge while surreptitiously sneaking away is a lot cleverer and worthy of a master fraudster than mournfully belly-flopping off into the dirty Hudson.
Wherever you are, Sam Israel, I hope you chose the Hard Way. The Easy Way was beneath you, and you didn’t deserve it anyway.