A fast-paced reprise of the meteoric career of Barry Minkow, teen-age founder of ZZZZ Best Carpet & Furniture Cleaning Co.,...


FAKING IT IN AMERICA: Barry Minkow and the Great ZZZZ Best Scam

A fast-paced reprise of the meteoric career of Barry Minkow, teen-age founder of ZZZZ Best Carpet & Furniture Cleaning Co., which, at no small cost to investors, lenders, and others who trusted him, proved a Potemkin village of an enterprise. The rogues-to-riches tale began in 1984 when Minkow (a product of L.A.'s San Fernando Valley who was then 18) started to promote himself as a precocious entrepreneur. An accommodating press soon lionized him as a boy wonder of commerce, giving his shoestring operation credibility enough to attract the attention of grown-up accountants, bankers, and brokerage houses. During its heyday, ZZZZ Best was valued by the stock market at upwards of $150 million, and name-brand underwriters (including Drexel Burnham) were vying to sell a receptive public additional debt securities. Unfortunately for all concerned, the fledgling firm was making money an old-fashioned way--under false pretenses. The charismatic Minkow had induced willing accomplices to forge corporate financial statements and allied documents that duped less-than-diligent CPAs; the conspirators also created a bogus business putatively engaged in the rehabitiation and restoration of offices destroyed by fire. The long-lived Ponzi scheme came apart in mid-1987 when the Los Angeles Times revealed that the local hero (who was making regular appearances on national TV) has been involved in a credit-card fraud. Nearly a dozen plotters have been sentenced to do time in federal prisons, but probably most will have been released by the time the scores of lawsuits arising from the eon are settled. Journalist Domanick (who covered the scandal as a breaking story) secured cooperation from many of the scam's perpetrators and victims. Among the notable exceptions were Minkow and the mob-connected loan sharks who enabled him to set up shop in the first place. Nonetheless, the author's vividly detailed account of a swindle that literally pulled the rug out from under its backers has the excitement of a caper novel, plus a cast of uncommon (if unsympathetic) characters. Surefire fare for aficionados of fiscal chicanery.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1989


Page Count: -

Publisher: Contemporary

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1989