Meet The 17-Year-Old High School Junior Who Made $72 Million Trading Penny Stocks. Allegedly

Update: it appears our bemused skepticism was well-founded. Moments ago that paragon of honesty, CNBC itself, chimed in and reported that following a conversation with Mohammed, the 17 year old admitted he made nowhere near that amount. To wit: "That story is being widely disputed and I can tell you that I just spoke with the gentleman right here at CNBC HQ, he told me the $72 million figure is not true, they do not know where it came from. They said "the attention" is not what we expected. We never wanted the hype." More here.

Too late Mohammed, the IRS is already knocking and asking for their $36 million cut.

And here is some more damage control from the "Leaders Investment Club": 

It has been brought to the attention of the Leaders Investment Club that Mohammed Islam has been rumored to have made $72,000,000 through making trades in the stock market. After performing due diligence and talking with Mohammed Islam himself, we have determined that these claims are false and simply been blown up by the media in the interests of sensationalism. We hold all our members to exacting moral and investing standards, and ask Mohammed Islam to clear up all misinformation surrounding his claims, misconstrued or otherwise. The goal of Leaders Investment Club is to promote the financial education of Millennials, and we disavow affiliation with members who fail to promote accurate and transparent information.

 

Sincerely,

 

The Leaders Investment Club Community

* * *

It never fails: every year we get a story of that one individual who, as simple survivorship bias would suggest, made a killing in the same market where 999,999 others lost (you won't ever read about them though). This year that someone is a 17-year-old from Queens who, according to rumors at Styuvesant High School in NYC where he is a junior, made $72 million by trading pennystocks, oil and gold.

Meet Mohammed Islam, who as the photo below shows, is like most other high school kids:

... with a few exceptions: he rents a Manhattan apartment, drives a BMW. And eats caviar and apple juice. Allegedly.

Who is Mohammed? The son of immigrants from the South Asian region of Bengal, Islam began dabbling in penny stocks at age 9. After suffering an early setback that cost him some money he made tutoring, he started reading up on modern finance, and hedge-fund managers in particular. He takes as his inspiration Paul Tudor Jones.

Most importantly, he is 'a VIP!' because remember: when one wants to be successful, one must first exude, dress, rent and eat "success." Or at least what journos think passes for success these days. Such as this one:

As the news spread, Mo’s stock went up. The school paper profiled him, Business Insider included him on a list of “20 Under 20,” and Mo became “a celebrity,” as his friend Damir Tulemaganbetov put it on a recent Friday night at Mari Vanna near Union Square. “A VIP!”

 

Mo, a cherubic senior with a goatee and slight faux-hawk, smiled shyly. “He’s quiet today,” said Patrick Trablusi, who was seated with Mo and Damir at a table littered with empty glasses. “Humble.” And tired: “This is our third meeting of the day,” Damir said, signaling to the waitress for another round. “We saw a real-estate agent, a lawyer, you …”

 

“Next we’re going to see a hedge-fund guy,” Patrick said. The friends locked eyes and started to giggle.

Why? "He basically wants to give us $150 million,” Mo explained, a blush like a sunset creeping over his cheeks.

Wait, so there is your typical trading "superstar" with unaudited returns, who attracts attention just because of his ostentatious behavior and "glamorous" spending habits, who like Kim Kardashian is famous "because he is famous",  and immediately the "smartest money in the room" lines up to give him even more money?

Certainly sounds "credible" and if not, then P.T. Barnum was a wise man indeed.

So what is Mo's actual net worth? Short answer: nobody actually knows.

Though he is shy about the $72 million number, he confirmed his net worth is in the “high eight figures.” More than enough to rent an apartment in Manhattan—though his parents won’t let him live in it until he turns 18—and acquire a BMW, which he can’t drive because he doesn’t yet have a license. Thus, it falls to his father to drive him past Tudor Jones’s Greenwich house for inspiration. “It’s because he is who he is that made me who I am today,” Mo said.

Sure, why not. So with high school almost behind him, what are his plans that fit with his world-domination narrative?

Over late nights out and dinners at Morimoto, the three hatched a plan to start a hedge fund. “There are a lot of steps we have to follow through,” said Patrick, calling to mind a more serious Chuck Bass. “But we’re on the right track.” They plan to launch in June, after Mo turns 18 and can get his broker-dealer license. “Mo’s our maestro,” Patrick said. “He’s going to be earning the big bucks. We’re just going to try to fill his needs.”

 

All three plan to attend college next year, but they’re not concerned about classes getting in the way of their goal: “A billion dollars!” Damir said. “By next year!” Mo affirmed the number with a nod. “But it’s not just about money,” he added. “We want to create a brotherhood. Like, all of us who are connected, who are in something together, who have influence, like the Koch brothers …”

Ridiculous trading returns aside, if a "brotherhood" is what you want then Goldman will surely hire you for your stupendous marketing and self-promotional skills alone. Goldman's decision will be further facilitated by Mo's ideology on money life :

... it falls to his father to drive him past Tudor Jones’s Greenwich house for inspiration. “It’s because he is who he is that made me who I am today,” Mo said.

 

Which is to say: a believer in Wall Street. “A lot of young people do start-ups, but I think it’s a bubble. Trading and investments will always be there. Money will always be rotating—”

 

“Money never sleeps!” Damir added. “That’s from the Wall Street movie.” “It all comes down to this,” Mo continued. “What makes the world go round? Money. If money is not flowing, if businesses don’t keep going, there’s no innovation, no products, no investments, no growth, no jobs.”

 

The check arrived for the caviar and apple juice. It totaled $400. “New York, that’s where the money’s at,” Damir shouted, pulling out a credit card.

 

This reminded me of an old joke about robbing banks because that’s where the money is. Damir grinned. “My father has a quote,” he said. “It’s really dope: ‘You can rob a bank with a gun, but you can rob the whole world with a bank.’ ”

Failing that, you can just take the money of a few gullible investors who desperately want to believe that that fleeting Wall Street success story is still possible and that a 17 year old can beat Wall Street at its own game. And remember: all one needs to appear on CNBC these days is a business suit and to speak with confidence.

As for everyone else, feel free to click on the NY Mag's story about the young "multi-millionaire" - after all that was the whole point.

And failing that, read the story of everyone's favorite mega-spending FX-trading superstar, Alex Hope: "Superstar FX Trader Whiz-kid Nothing But A Superspending Ponzi Fraud" who, as most "successful" investment managers exuding "success" burned "through £2 million in the 13 months before his arrest in early 2012."