26 June 2019
Mohammed Islam claimed he made US$72 million trading stocks during school lunch breaks. Photo: Washington Post
Mohammed Islam claimed he made US$72 million trading stocks during school lunch breaks. Photo: Washington Post

‘Whiz kid’ admits he made up US$72 mln fortune story

Makes you wonder how a 17-year-old high school student could pull a fast one on seasoned journalists.

Mohammed Islam, a self-described whiz kid who claimed he made US$72 million trading stocks during lunch breaks at Stuyvesant High School, New York, now admits he just made up the whole story.

His admission and apology came after New York Magazine published a story that said Islam gained the fabulous fortune in the financial markets, first by dabbling in penny stocks at the age of nine and later advancing into futures and commodities.

After the story broke out, several other media outlets tried to interview the boy and that’s when his story started to unravel.

New York initially stood by its story. “Our story portrays the $72 million figure as a rumor … we did not know the exact figure he has made in trades. However, Mohammed provided bank statements that showed he is worth eight figures, and he confirmed on the record that he’s worth eight figures,” it said.

But later, in an interview with New York Observer, he confessed that he hadn’t made even a penny.

He said he runs an “investment club” at school, but it only engages in simulated trades where no real money is involved.

He also dismissed rumors that he had bought a BMW and a luxury flat in Manhattan.

In a statement, New York said: “We were duped. Our fact-checking process was obviously inadequate; we take full responsibility and we should have known better. New York apologizes to our readers.”

Islam appears most concerned about the reaction of his parents to the whole saga.

“Honestly, my dad wanted to disown me,” he told the Observer. “My mum basically said she’d never talk to me. Their morals are that if I lie about it and don’t own up to it then they can no longer trust me… They knew it was false and they basically wanted to kill me and I haven’t spoken to them since.”

Ken Kurson, who conducted the interview for the Observer, said: “I think that he wanted to impress people, and he told a few fibs, and got this reputation as this master investor and once that reputation is rolling how do you unwind it?” 

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