Wednesday, October 17, 2018
Business

Years after $62 million judgment, Paul Bilzerian is alive and well on Caribbean island

Those around long enough in Tampa Bay might recall disgraced corporate raider Paul Bilzerian as the maverick who made millions and built a 10-bedroom castle with an indoor basketball court in Tampa's tony Avila community.

Convicted of fraud in 1989, he was sentenced initially to four years in prison and ultimately served 13 months. In 1992, the Securities and Exchange Commission won a $62 million judgment from him for illegal stock manipulation.

Now the Wall Street Journal reports Bilzerian, 64 and with his trademark bushy mustache turned white, lives in voluntary exile on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. Meanwhile — decades later — a receiver for the SEC is still trying to close the case after collecting only about $3.7 million yet spending $8.6 million in the effort to do so, the Journal says.

After repeatedly denying wrongdoing, Bilzerian was found in contempt in 2000 by a federal judge, who later ordered him to prison. He was freed when his wife agreed to sell their Tampa mansion and split the proceeds with the government.

Still, his family continued to occupy the Tampa mansion through the decade as ownership of it shifted among various trusts and partnerships affiliated with his relatives and acquaintances.

Earlier this year, the Journal reports, the house was sold in a foreclosure sale.

"Bilzerian now lives with his wife in St. Kitts, leading a lifestyle far removed from his days as a corporate raider," the Journal reports. "The highest-profile member of his family now may be his 33-year-old son, Dan, a social media star for his videos about his playboy lifestyle who says he has made $50 million playing poker. Paul Bilzerian says he never cared about money. He was motivated, he says, by 'the love of the game.' "

The receiver wants to wrap up her work to collect more of the SEC judgment by the end of this year, even though the cost exceeded the recovery. The effort was worthwhile, the receiver says, because not enforcing judgments undermines the agency's effectiveness.

The Journal's Bilzerian tale delivers this familiar lesson:

"His is an extreme example of the challenges, and often failures, financial watchdogs encounter in trying to collect judgments after announcing them with fanfare."

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