cover image THE SCORPION AND THE FROG: High Times and High Crimes

THE SCORPION AND THE FROG: High Times and High Crimes

Salvatore Lauria, Donato Ripelli, , as told to David S. Barry. . New Millennium, $25 (0pp) ISBN 978-1-893224-26-1

Lauria was a Brooklyn tile layer turned stockbroker whose instincts for crime and appetite for the good life circa 1995 earned him $2,000 Ermenegildo Zegna suits and trips to St. Tropez. Eventually, as this insider memoir details, his instincts also earned him jail time for his role in masterminding one of the biggest stock swindles to date—a $40 million stock con that brought down two firms, White Rock and State Street, and eventually led to his indictment as well as to that of members of the Bonnano, Genovese and Colombo crime families. A native of Sicily, Lauria discovers his "entrepreneurial spirit" as a Long Island teenager, developing "a multi-tiered marketing program for marijuana" in high school. Offered a chance to be a "cold caller" at a mid-level brokerage firm, Lauria quickly moves onward and upward, taking readers along for the ride as he puts together a "pump and dump" stock-manipulation scheme: his firm secretly acquired control of securities in the name of offshore companies, artificially inflated the price by selling stock to investors in return for undisclosed cash payments, then sold the inflated stocks and deposited the profits in offshore accounts. The book's real drama comes when Lauria turns to old mob friends for help with keeping his scheme alive, which leads to "brutal mob intimidation and retaliation tactics" used against some stock brokers, while the Feds start to pursue Lauria's stock scams. He argues that, at the time, no brokerage house on Wall Street was completely clean, because the "pump and dump" profits were too much to keep away the mob. While the book is too long, Lauria's overall entertaining combination of elements from the film Wall Street and The Sopranos could receive an eager reception by the many people who currently conflate Wall Street and crime—that is, a lot of Americans. 100,000 first printing; $100,000 ad/promo. (Oct.)