Billionaire Boys Club

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The Billionaire Boys Club was an investmenting and social club organized by Joseph Henry Gamsky,[1] also known as "Joe Hunt", in Southern California in 1983. It was originally simply named "BBC", the initials of Bombay Bicycle Club, a restaurant Gamsky had frequented while growing up in Chicago.[2]

The club enticed the sons of wealthy families from the Harvard School for Boys (now Harvard-Westlake School) in the Los Angeles area with get-rich-quick schemes. Given their inexperience and difficulty proving themselves in legitimate businesses, an organization like the BBC proved attractive to these boys. Due to the reputation of the organization for being composed of young, inexperienced boys from moneyed families, it was jokingly referred to as the "Billionaire Boys' Club".[3] During his high school years, Gamsky and his brother were high-profile members of the Harvard School debate team.[citation needed] However, Gamsky was thrown out of the USC Summer Debate Institute in 1975 after admitting he fabricated evidence.[citation needed] The story was recounted in the 1987 movie Billionaire Boys Club. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal agreed to hear his appeal on July 1, 2014.

Crime[edit]

The organization was run as a Ponzi scheme,[4][5][6][7][8] and money contributed by investors was spent on supporting lavish lifestyles for young members of the club. When funds ran short in 1984, Hunt and other club members turned to murder, with two people killed in separate schemes as the BBC tried to raise more money.

When authorities began to investigate the murders, Dean Karny, the club's second-in-command and Hunt's best friend, turned state's evidence on both murders in return for immunity from prosecution.

Hunt and club-security director Jim Pittman were charged with the murder of Ron Levin, a con artist who had allegedly swindled the BBC out of over $4 million.

BBC members Hunt, Pittman, Karny (before his immunity deal), Arben Dosti, and Reza Eslaminia were charged with the murder of Hedayat Eslaminia, Reza's father, allegedly to acquire his fortune which was reputed to be $35 million (the senior Eslamina was, in fact, nearly penniless).

Trials and convictions[edit]

In 1987, Hunt was found guilty, in a Southern California Court, of the 1984 murder of Ron Levin and sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole.

Pittman was unable to make his $500,000 bail ($1.2 million today), so he was kept incarcerated through two Southern California trials for his active role in the murder of Levin. Both ended in hung juries. In 1988, before a third trial, prosecutors offered Pittman a deal, whereby he pleaded guilty to being an accessory to murder after the fact and possession of a concealed weapon, and was sentenced to time served, being the 3 1/2 years he was incarcerated since his 1984 arrest.

The trials for the murder of Hedayat Eslaminia were held in Northern California. With the testimony of accomplice Karny, both Dosti and Reza Eslaminia were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

Hunt and Pitman’s trials for murdering Levin had delayed their trials for murdering Eslaminia, with other pre-trial motions pushing Hunt’s Northern California trial to 1992. Hunt acted as his own attorney during this trial and contended that star witness Karny had killed Eslaminia. The result was a hung jury, 8–4, in favor of Hunt's acquittal. Joe Hunt is the only person in California's legal history to represent himself in a capital case and not receive the death penalty. When prosecutors realized they likely could not convict Hunt nor Pittman, and satisfied that Hunt already had a life sentence in the Levin murder, they dismissed all charges against Hunt and Pittman regarding the murder of Eslaminia.

Subsequent events[edit]

On May 20, 1993, a few months after all charges were dropped against him in the Eslaminia case, Pittman admitted on the television program A Current Affair to have participated in the Levin murder, confessing that he was the one who shot Levin and bragging that he was now untouchable in court due to the restriction on double jeopardy.[9] Pittman, granted only time served in two murders, died of kidney failure in 1997, age 44.

The convictions of Dosti and Reza Eslaminia were later overturned.

During his trial for the murder of Levin, Hunt’s defense attorney presented witnesses who testified that they saw Ron Levin in various locations around the planet in 1986 and 1987, including Greece, Beverly Hills, and Los Angeles.[10] The jury was not persuaded by these unsubstantiated sightings and found Hunt guilty in 1987.

On the basis of the witnesses' statements, and despite the fact that his accomplice (Pittman) pled guilty in 1988 then also gave a full detailed confession on the television program in 1993, Hunt sought to have his murder conviction overturned and get a new trial. His direct appeal was denied on July 12, 1996.[11] However, in a federal habeas proceeding in 2004, Hunt's continuing effort to have his murder conviction overturned was revived, as the Ninth Circuit reversed a dismissal of his habeas petition.[12] The federal court granted Hunt until September 2008, to file further documents, and it is not clear what happened to the petition after that date.[13]

In popular culture[edit]

In 1987, NBC aired a miniseries based on the story of the Billionaire Boys Club, starring Judd Nelson as Joe Hunt, Brian McNamara as Dean Karny, and Ron Silver as Ron Levin. Hunt was the basis for Philip Swann, a character in the Law & Order Season 4 episode "American Dream," which was subsequently adapted into the Law & Order: UK episode, "Unsafe". The Billionaire Boys Club is also the topic of two books: The Billionaire Boys Club by Sue Horton and The Price of Experience by Randall Sullivan. The murders are also the subject of the song "Things to Do Today" by Chicago band Big Black.

On July 17, 2002, TruTV aired an episode of Dominick Dunne's Power, Privilege and Justice entitled "Billionaire Boys Club", presented by author Dominick Dunne, which summarized the events surrounding the "club" and the kidnapping, murders, and trials. Investigation Discovery's Behind Mansion Walls revisited the case in the 2011 episode "Fatal Greed."

A feature film titled Billionaire Boys Club starring Ansel Elgort as Joe Hunt, Taron Egerton as Dean Karny, and Kevin Spacey as Ron Levin was released in 2018.[14][15][16] Judd Nelson, who played Hunt in the 1987 miniseries, played the father of Joe Hunt.[17]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Shaw, Daniel; Shaw, Daniel (7 February 1987). "SAGA OF FAST-TRACK GROUP TOLD AT TRIAL" – via washingtonpost.com. 
  2. ^ Dominick Dunne's Power, Privilege, and Justice – Episode "Billionaire Boys Club"
  3. ^ "truTV Official Website - TV Show Full Episodes and Funny Video Clips". 
  4. ^ "BREAKING NEWS: 'Billionaire Boys Club' Attorney In Michigan Ponzi Scheme Case Indicted In North Carolina For Running His Own Securities Scheme". 
  5. ^ Kit, Zorianna (14 October 2010). "James Cox to direct 'Billionaire Boys Club'". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  6. ^ "Alleged Ponzi Artist Faces Contempt Charge". United Press International. 2009-09-19. 
  7. ^ Waggoner, John (2009-10-02). "Madoff's gone but Ponzis go on; There's a schemer like him born every minute". USA Today. 
  8. ^ Lerner, Michael (1986-11-17). "The Billionaire Boys Club Goes on Trial for Murder". Newsweek. 
  9. ^ Boxall, Bettina (1993-05-21). "Billionaire Boys Club Bodyguard Admits Slaying in TV Interview". Los Angeles Times. 
  10. ^ "Herald-Journal (Associated Press story), "Levin Sightings Cast Doubt on Boys' Club Murder, May 2, 1996" PDF at Google Books". 
  11. ^ "Los Angeles Times, "Billionaire Boys Club Leader Denied New Trial" July 13, 1996". 
  12. ^ {{cit_11382/HUNT%20v.%20PLILER|title=HUNT v. PLILER - 384 F.3d 1118 (2004) - Leagle.com|publisher=}}
  13. ^ Hunt v. Kernan, 2008 U.S. Dist LEXIS 115644 (2008)
  14. ^ Ford, Rebecca; Kit, Borys (October 29, 2015). "Ansel Elgort, Taron Egerton to Star in 'Billionaire Boys Club'". hollywoodreporter.com. Retrieved December 11, 2015. 
  15. ^ McNary, Dave (October 29, 2015). "Ansel Elgort, Taron Egerton Starring in 'Billionaire Boys Club' Movie (EXCLUSIVE)". variety.com. Retrieved December 11, 2015. 
  16. ^ Fleming Jr, Mike (November 3, 2015). "Kevin Spacey Joining 'Baby Driver' & 'Billionaire Boys Club'". deadline.com. Retrieved December 11, 2015. 
  17. ^ McNary, Dave (December 5, 2015). "Judd Nelson Returns for 'Billionaire Boys Club' Remake (EXCLUSIVE)". variety.com. Retrieved December 11, 2015. 

Books[edit]

  • Horton, Sue. The Billionaire Boys Club. New York: St. Martin's Paperbacks, 1990.
  • Sullivan, Randall. The Price of Experience: Money, Power, Image, and Murder in Los Angeles. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1996.
  • Hunt, Joseph & Adams, Alan. "Blue Dharma". Blue Dharma Press, 2008.

External links[edit]

See also[edit]