Reprinted from April 16, 2009 Issue
There’s Something About Larry
By Lexi Fienberg
With white-collar crime surging and the SEC on the prowl, business is booming for former federal prisoner Lawrence J. Levine, founder of Wall Street Prison Consultants. He’s the go-to guy for corrupt businessmen who engaged in fraudulent behavior and are looking for ways to dodge the fist of the law — but even he wouldn’t speak to Bernie Madoff.
“His people called me; I refused to help him,” Levine said. He then added, “I don’t help child molesters either.”
Levine, 47, said he spent a decade in jail for “narcotics trafficking, securities fraud, racketeering, obstruction of justice and … machine guns.” Since his release in 2007, he’s been on supervised probation and trying to make a buck off the soon-to-be-convicted with rates that start at $1,000 per case. He claims he can show you how to survive on the inside, how to reduce your sentence and even how to beat a charge or two.
Lawyers and judges traffic in justice but Levine is more practical about the ins and outs of criminal law.
“It’s not who’s right or wrong — it’s who’s a better liar.”
The recent turmoil on Wall Street and the Bernie Madoff case inspired Levine to augment his American Prison Consultants brand with the trendier Wall Street Prison Consultants. He said that he’s “tired of seeing people get burned by the system.”
He recently received a call from someone who claimed to be associated with the Madoff case. She never identified herself but Levine believes it was Shana Madoff — the compliance lawyer at Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities and wife of Eric Swanson, a former top lawyer at the SEC — and he has speculated about it in the press. Shana Madoff’s representative said she never called Levine; Forbes tried but was unable to get comment prior to publication.
While Levine’s focus has recently shifted to white-collar crimes, he’s made a name for himself by finding loopholes in the law. One way is by taking advantage of prison policies to help prospective prisoners get into the jail drug rehab program and “receive extra time off their sentence even with no evidence of drug or alcohol abuse in their pre-sentencing report.” (See “Time Off For Bad Behavior.”)
One of his clients, Chris Upchurch, a former car dealership owner in Boise, Idaho, found him via Google while staring down 20 counts of bank fraud. “Lawyers aren’t worth a dime when it comes to this,” he said, adding that Levine gave him sound advice and encouraged him to plea it out. He now faces a 33-month sentence in June and refers to Levine as a philanthropist.
“This is a moneymaking idea, so I jumped on it,” Levine said.
Levine’s phone is ringing off the hook and he’s been making the media rounds, appearing on Fox News and MSN and in Forbes. As the financial press covers Wall Street’s continuing meltdown, Levine is front and center, riding the wave of the only sure bull market — prison grays and electronic cell locks.