Research Outline

Fraudsters: Barry Minkow


To provide a break down about crimes of con artists and financial scammers, specifically ragrding the case against Barry Minkow and the ZZZZ scam.

Early Findings

  • Minkow gained national attention as a teenager in the 1980s by founding the ZZZZ Best Carpet Cleaning Company in Southern California. At age 21, he became the youngest, wealthiest founder of a public company in U.S. history.
  • The company went public in December 1986 and was quickly valued at over $300 million. Within seven months of the IPO, ZZZZ Best was bankrupt and its assets were auctioned for approximately $64,000.
  • While in high school, 15-year old Minkow formed ZZZZ Best in his parents' garage. The business performed poorly and he was inundated with customer complaints and supplier collections. To create an illusion of a profitable business, he began committing criminal acts to fund operations and pay suppliers, i.e. check kiting, theft, insurance scams, and fraud.
  • ZZZZ Best Carpet Cleaning Company was involved a fraud scheme in which investors poured $100 million into fake fire and water restoration projects.
  • Minkow soon launched fictitious insurance restoration and appraisal businesses, even while ZZZZ Best was being investigated for fraudulent credit card schemes involving more than $70,000. He blamed contractors and employees, and repaid all of the victims except one, a homemaker swindled out of a few hundred dollars.
  • Because of finanical problems, Minkow planned to acquire KeyServ- Sears' authorized carpet cleaner- for $25 million, in which the revenues from KeyServ would provide enough cash flow to end the Ponzi scheme. however, before the deal closed, the homemaker began a campaign to expose ZZZZ Best that inroduced more than the fraud committed against her.
  • In 1988's court case against Minkow, conflicting portraits of Barry Minkow painted a brilliant con man and a frightened boy in the clutches of the Mafia during opening statements at the securities fraud trial of the carpet cleaning whiz kid. He was convicted of 57 fraud charges and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Additional Information

  • Released in 1995, Minkow became pastor of the San Diego church two years later, only to be convicted of fraud, a second time, for stealing money from the parishioners of San Diego Community Bible Church- U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy.
  • Minkow also founded the Fraud Discovery Institute to help the FBI and other law enforcement agencies ferret out white-collar crimes around the country. Through the Institute, he engaged in manipulating stock prices of companies he was investigating, federal prosecutors said.
  • In 2011, a federal judge (Miami) sentenced Minkow to 5 years for involvement in a scam that cost homebuilder, Lennar Corporation, $580 million in lost stock value.
  • Barry Minkow and his partner, Tom Padgett, set up a fake company- Interstate Appraisal Services- to defraud financial institutions. Tom Padgett, an insurance claims adjuster, helped to forge documents crediting ZZZZ Best for restoration work and use IAS as the source to verify the claims. Investors and bankers developed an interest in ZZZZ Best because of fraudulent financial statements produced by Minkow’s firm.