New York — Jordan Belfort insists he's a changed man.
The old Belfort was a notorious stock swindler who squandered profits from a boiler-room, "pump and dump" scheme on cocaine, prostitutes and other excesses — a story that became basis for two memoirs and "The Wolf of Wall Street," an upcoming movie starring Leonardo DeCaprio.
The new Belfort is a business consultant who claims he would never tell a lie and frets over recent suggestions that he may be avoiding payments on $110 million in restitution by hiding his profits from the book and movie deals.
"It's very strange being accused of something I wouldn't have done in a million years," the 51-year Belfort said. "It's so not where my head is at."
In early October, prosecutors asked a federal judge in Brooklyn to find Belfort in default, saying he paid only $11.6 million of the $110 million he owes as restitution for a securities fraud and money laundering conviction. They have since withdrawn the request to see if a settlement can be worked out — but not before a wave of bad press portraying Belfort as a deadbeat.
"In some weird way, it probably helps the movie," he said in a recent phone interview. "It doesn't help me."
The film — directed by Martin Scorsese and set for release on Christmas Day — chronicles the boyish, fast-talking Belfort's antics as chairman of Stratton Oakmont Inc., the firm he started with a few desks and phones set up in a former Long Island auto shop.
"Leo's amazing, a brilliant actor," Belfort said. "I spent hundreds of hours with him. And Marty's brilliant too."
Stratton Oakmont made a fortune by using deceptive, high-pressure tactics to peddle penny stocks at inflated prices. After artificially pumping the value up, Belfort and others would dump their own shares before prices crashed.