Billionaire Boys Club
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The Billionaire Boys Club (BBC) was an investment-and-social club organized by Joseph Henry Gamsky, also known as "Joe Hunt", in southern California in 1983. It was originally simply named "BBC"; the initials of a business named the Bombay Bicycle Club, a restaurant Gamsky had frequented in his earlier years while growing up in Chicago. 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. Because of the reputation of the organization being composed of young, inexperienced boys from moneyed families, jocose slang got around that "BBC" stood for "Billionaire Boys' Club". During his high school years, Gamsky and his brother were high-profile members of the Harvard School debate team. However, Gamsky was thrown out of the USC Summer Debate Institute in 1975 after admitting he fabricated evidence. In 2008 Joe Hunt published a book, "Blue Dharma", which received acclaim from Kirkus Discoveries - "A winning and complex fantasy tale." The story was recounted in the 1987 movie Billionaire Boys Club. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal agreed to hear his appeal on July 1st 2014.
The organization was run as a Ponzi scheme, 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, and at least two people were killed as Hunt 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 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. Hunt, Pittman, club member 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.
In 1987, Hunt was found guilty of the 1984 murder of Ron Levin and sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole. Pittman had two trials, and both ended in hung juries. He later pleaded guilty to being an accessory after the fact and was sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison. After his release, he admitted in an interview to have participated in the murder, knowing he could not be re-tried due to the restriction on double jeopardy.
Dosti and Reza Eslaminia were later convicted of murdering Hedayat Eslaminia and sentenced to life imprisonment without parole. Hunt acted as his own attorney during his trial for the Eslaminia murder 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. The convictions of Dosti and Reza Eslaminia were later overturned. Hunt remained in prison for the Levin murder, but maintained his innocence.
Alleged Ron Levin sightings
Several witnesses testified that they saw Ron Levin in 1986 and 1987 in Greece, Beverly Hills, and Los Angeles. On the basis of the witnesses' statements, Hunt sought to have his murder conviction overturned and get a new trial. His direct appeal was denied on July 12, 1996. 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. 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.
In popular culture
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. This movie inspired Lyle and Erik Menendez to murder their own parents for money a few years later. 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."
- Dominick Dunne's Power, Privilege, and Justice – Episode "Billionaire Boys Club"
- http://www.trutv.com/library/crime/notorious_murders/young/joe_hunt/1.html "Joe Hunt: White Collar Psychopath" at TruTV Crime Library
- "BREAKING NEWS: ‘Billionaire Boys Club’ Attorney In Michigan Ponzi Scheme Case Indicted In North Carolina For Running His Own Securities Scheme".
- Kit, Zorianna (14 October 2010). "James Cox to direct 'Billionaire Boys Club'". The Hollywood Reporter.
- "Alleged Ponzi Artist Faces Contempt Charge". United Press International. 2009-09-19.
- Waggoner, John (2009-10-02). "Madoff's gone but Ponzis go on; There's a schemer like him born every minute". USA Today.
- Lerner, Michael (1986-11-17). "The Billionaire Boys Club Goes on Trial for Murder". Newsweek.
- "Herald-Journal (Associated Press story), "Levin Sightings Cast Doubt on Boys' Club Murder, May 2, 1996" PDF at Google Books".
- "Los Angeles Times, "Billionaire Boys Club Leader Denied New Trial" July 13, 1996".
- Leagle Eagle, Hunt v. Pliler, 384 F.3d 1118 (2004)
- Hunt v. Kernan, 2008 U.S. Dist LEXIS 115644 (2008)
- Abrahamsom, Alan (August 14, 1993). "Movie Called Factor in Menendez Killings Trial: TV film on Billionaire Boys Club inspired brothers to kill parents, prosecutors say outside juries' presence. Brothers' defense lawyers to begin their case next week". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 5 May 2011.
- 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.