Kenneth I. Starr

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Kenneth I. Starr
South Bronx, New York
Other namesKen Starr
Alma materQueens College, City University of New York
OccupationMoney manager, lawyer, Ponzi Schemer

Kenneth Ira Starr (born 1943/1944) is an American accountant and former money manager[1] convicted of running a $35 million Ponzi scheme with the money of numerous wealthy and celebrity clients.[2][3][4][5] Sentenced in March 2011, Starr has been released from the Otisville, New York Federal Correctional Institution under the supervision of the Residential Reentry Management (RRM) field office in Brooklyn, New York. Starr served the remainder of his 7.5-year sentence in a halfway house, and his term ended in December 2016.[6][7]

Early life and education[edit]

Starr was the son of a public-school principal in the South Bronx and the youngest of three sons. He entered Queens College at the age of fifteen. He is Jewish.[5]

Early career and financial problems[edit]

After first working as an accountant, originally in a Manhattan firm, later as a solo accountant, then in an investment firm founded with his brother Warren Starr, also an attorney, Starr finally formed his own investment company, Starr & Company, LLC (Starrco). Starr gained wealthy and well-known clients, business associates and friends including Blackstone founder Pete Peterson, restaurateur Shelly 'Shelly's' Fireman, and a Who's-Who of many Hollywood stars including Al Pacino, Natalie Portman, Martin Scorsese, Carly Simon, Wesley Snipes, Sylvester Stallone, and Uma Thurman.[5] Minimizing the scope of his thefts, he has been called a 'mini-Madoff'[8][9][10][11] for the kind of clients he attracted, the breach of trust, and his notoriety.

Starr's financial and legal problems began to surface in the late-1990s after he was sued by Sylvester Stallone in connection with the Planet Hollywood restaurant chain and Starr's alleged role in Stallone's $10 million loss. As his financial world began to crumble, Starr's then-third wife, Marisa Vucci Starr, resigned as Starrco's office manager.[5] This left only Starr's son, Ron Starr (identified on the indictment as RonStar Bristol), also an attorney and then Chief Compliance Officer, as the only family member and officer left at the company. His involvement or failure to oversee caused some concern because he was both a Compliance Officer and a lawyer. Ron Starr continues to work as a financial adviser in Manhattan.

Indictment, arrest, conviction, and sentencing[edit]

In May 2010, Starr was indicted and arrested on 23 criminal counts, including various fraud charges and money laundering.[12] When authorities went to arrest him, they found him hiding in a closet at the very upscale Manhattan apartment he purchased and lavishly furnished from stolen funds.

At a bail hearing in July 2010, Starr's bail was set at $10 million, but none among his wealthy family and friends, alone or in collaboration, would agree to post bond.[6]

In September 2010, Starr pleaded guilty in federal court. He was sentenced by United States District Court judge Shira Scheindlin in March 2011 to a 7.5-year prison term.[6] Scheindlin opted for leniency, arguing essentially that victims of the disgraced celebrity accountant, such as Uma Thurman, Lauren Bacall, Neil Simon, Denise Rich and Jim Wiatt, were rich and did not go broke as a result of his fraud scheme.[13] At sentencing, Scheindlin specifically named Diane Passage as an immoral influence on Starr.[14]

The investigation of Starr led to the arrest and conviction of longtime Democratic politician, New York City Council member and former Manhattan Borough President Andrew Stein for lying to federal investigators about his involvement with Starr's multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme. Stein was later sentenced to 500 hours of community service.[15]

Personal life[edit]

Starr has been married four times. He and first wife, Gail Starr, have two children: son, Ron Starr, and daughter, Terri Starr.[5]

After divorcing his first wife, he married Sheila Starr, who was his then-current office manager. Sheila in turn hired Marisa Vucci, to replace herself as office manager.[5]

In 1991, after divorcing Shiela, Starr married his third wife, Marisa Vucci Starr, Starrco's then-current office manager.[5] He and Marisa have two daughters: Samantha Starr, and Alexa Starr. While still married to Marisa, who was by then suffering from advanced multiple sclerosis, Starr met Diane Passage, a single mother and dancer at the Scores strip club.[16] In 2007, Starr and Marisa divorced.

In 2007, Starr married his fourth wife, Passage, who had stopped working as a stripper after they met. Starr was eager to satisfy her financially.[5] Starr was imprisoned in the fall of 2010. Passage filed for divorce in July 2011, claiming she could not wait for him to complete his prison sentence in 2016.[17] Starr and Passage were divorced on March 20, 2013.


  1. ^ Martinez, Jose (August 4, 2011). "Ponzi schemer Kenneth Starr officially disbarred for masterminding $30M wire fraud scheme last year". New York Daily News. New York City: Tronc. Retrieved March 23, 2016.
  2. ^ Bray, Chad; Efrati, Amir (May 28, 2010). "Adviser Starr Charged With Fraud". The Wall Street Journal. Washington DC: Dow Jones & Company. Retrieved April 21, 2018.
  3. ^ Cronk, Brian (May 28, 2010). "Adviser Starr Is Charged With Fraud". The Wall Street Journal. Washington DC: Dow Jones and Company. Retrieved April 21, 2018.
  4. ^ Schwartz, Nelson D. (June 6, 2010). "Untangling a Ponzi Scheme With a Hollywood Twist". The New York Times. New York City: New York Times Company. Retrieved April 21, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Shnayerson, Michael (August 2010). "All The Best Victims". Vanity Fair. New York City: Condé Nast. Retrieved August 31, 2011.
  6. ^ a b c Golding, Bruce; Fermino, Jennifer (March 3, 2011). "Celeb Ponzi schemer Kenneth Starr sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison". New York Post. New York City: News Corp. Retrieved April 21, 2018.
  7. ^ [1], Federal Bureau of Prisons U.S. Department of Justice, Register Number: 63552-054. Retrieved 23 March 2016.
  8. ^ Stableford, Dylan (March 3, 2011). "Ken Starr, Hollywood's Mini-Madoff, Gets 7.5-Year Jail Sentence". TheWrap. Los Angeles, California: The Wrap News Inc. Retrieved January 2, 2015.
  9. ^ Primack, Dan (January 19, 2011). ""Letters" in support of a mini-Madoff". Fortune. New York City: Meredith Corporation. Retrieved January 2, 2015.
  10. ^ Sorkin, Andrew Ross (May 28, 2010). "Adviser to Stars Named in Madoff-Like Fraud". The New York Times. New York City: New York Times Company. Retrieved January 2, 2015. But when they arrested him on Thursday, federal prosecutors described him as something else: a mini-Madoff who diverted $30 million of his clients' money to buy himself a sprawling Upper East Side condo complete with an indoor swimming pool and a 1,500-square-foot garden.
  11. ^ Schmidt, Robert (September 2, 2010). "Wayne McLeod: The Life and Death of a Mini-Madoff". Bloomberg Businessweek. New York City: Bloomberg L.P. Retrieved January 2, 2015. The financial crisis also led to the arrests of a string of "mini-Madoffs," whose crimes, while not as massive, were just as brazen. They include New York money manager Kenneth Starr, arrested in May and charged with stealing at least $59 million from movie stars and other celebrities.
  12. ^ Hurtado, Patricia (June 11, 2010). "Financial Adviser Kenneth Starr Indicted for Fraud by U.S." Bloomberg Business Week. Archived from the original on July 14, 2010.
  13. ^ Bernstein, Jacob (March 2, 2011). "Ponzi Punk Kenneth Starr Goes to Jail". The Daily Beast. New York City: IAC/InteractiveCorp. Retrieved April 21, 2018.
  14. ^ Pressler, Jessica (September 18, 2011). "A Holly Golightly For The Stripper-Embezzlement Age". New York Magazine. New York City: New York Media. Retrieved April 1, 2018. He seemed to have lost his moral compass, partly as a result of infatuation with his young fourth wife.
  15. ^ Shifrel, Scott (March 15, 2011). "Andrew Stein, ex-city pol who lied during Kenneth Starr Ponzi probe, gets 500 hours of service". The New York Daily News. New York City: Tronc. Retrieved August 31, 2011.
  16. ^ Algar, Selim (May 29, 2010). "Alleged celeb swindler Kenneth Starr dumped sickly wife". New York Post. New York City: News Corp. Retrieved April 21, 2018.
  17. ^ Quigley, Rachel (July 27, 2011). "Stripper wife of jailed Ponzi schemer Ken Starr filing for divorce". Daily Mail. London, England: Daily Mail and General Trust. Retrieved August 31, 2011.