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QUEENS. New York — A 17-year-old Stuyvesant High School senior who claimed he day-traded his way into becoming a multimillionaire is now admitting that he made the whole story up, according to the Observer.
The teenager, Mohammed Islam, was reported to be worth tens of millions of dollars, but the story quickly unraveled during the day Monday. He told the Observer that there were no “eight figures” worth of prodigious wealth. In fact, he had never actually traded at all, he told the Observer.
“So it’s a total fiction,” asked The Observer.
“Yes,” Islam responded.
Islam and his friend, Damir Tulemaganbetov, expressed contrition.
Said Islam: “Honestly, my dad wanted to disown me. My mom 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.”
In the original profile in New York magazine published Monday, Mohammed Islam is quoted as saying his net worth is in the “high eight figures” — crediting his wealth to trading in crude oil and gold.
Jessica Pressler, the New York Magazine author who covered Islam’s story, said on Twitter that she saw his bank account statements showing an 8-figure number, and that she stood by her story. The magazine, CNBC reports, said the fabulous number was presented as a rumor, and says Islam provided bank statements to back up his claims.
Before coming clean to The Observer, Islam declined to give specific numbers on the size of his bank account, but said he didn’t know where the $72 million number came from, a number he described as a “rumor” to the New York Observer. New York has not yet commented about The Observer article.
He told The Observer he runs an investment club at school, which does simulated trades. Had the trades been real, he said, would have made a lot of money.
Earlier Monday, Jeff Macke of Yahoo Finance says making that kind of money would require “superhuman skills”:
Assume Mo started investing with $1,000 when he was 10. To accumulate $72 million strictly through his trading acumen he would need to average over 500% annualized returns over the last 7 years … to net 500% per year for 7 straight years Mo would have to be the greatest trader in history. Ever. By far. No such creature has ever existed in financial markets and it’s not for lack of trying.
Our sister station WPIX attempted to contact Islam about his claims. Earlier Monday, his fellow students at Stuyvesant, who didn’t want to appear on camera, described Islam as “very quiet” and “soft spoken,” saying they heard about the rumor but never thought much of it.
“Like he’s in my class but I don’t talk to him, I just know about him,” one student told WPIX. “He’s just very quiet.”
Islam is the son of Bengali immigrants in Queens and told New York magazine he credits billionaire hedge fund manager Paul Tudor Jones as an inspiration.
Monday evening, Islam told the Observer: “At school, first things first. I am incredibly sorry for any misjudgment and any hurt I caused. The people I’m most sorry for is my parents. I did something where I can no longer gain their trust. I have one sister, two years younger, and we don’t really talk.”