'Chip' Found Himself Working For 'Buy or Die Securities'
September 10, 2000
Chip is afraid he's going to walk out of his suburban home one morning to pick up the paper and take a bullet in the forehead.
"My life is ruined by this whole thing," said Chip, using a false name to hide his identity from the public and, more importantly, from the mob.
Chip was a stockbroker inside what authorities say was one of the biggest Mafia stock scams in U.S. history, and now he is cooperating with the FBI in the hopes of escaping a prison sentence.
Chip was raised on a horse farm and attended an all-boys'private school. He took up acting and landed a role as Jason in one of the "Friday the 13th" slasher films, but he wanted to make some money.
So he took his brokers exam and joined up with Smith Barney in an entry-level position in 1989. From there, he drifted from firm to firm.
Then, in 1994 while on vacation in St. Bart's, he met Cary Cimino, a charming name-dropping kid from Brooklyn who promised him big money fast on a firm called Spaceplex.
"Cary owned a house in the Hamptons," Chip said. "He and his sister were driving around in matching 12-cylinder Mercedes. The guy would go to [the] Bowery Bar and he'd sit at the table. He'd take off his $100,000 watch because it hurt his wrist, he said. He'd pull out a roll of bills wrapped in elastic bands and put 'em on the bar because it was hurting his leg, he said."
At first, Chip said, he had no clue Cimino was a mob wanna-be and that Spaceplex was the first offering in a scheme to artificially inflate stock value.
Chip watched as Spaceplex later collapsed, but he was now part of the team, forced by implied threat of violence to push another "hot" stock called Reclaim. As he put it, "If you bought one deal you'd be roped in."
In the next few years, he took jobs at several firms secretly controlled by the mob, winding up at Monitor Investment Group on the 18th floor of 20 Exchange Place.
"Do you know why Monitor is called Monitor? If you get beaten, and you get put on a life support system, you're on a monitor," Chip said. "The nickname on the street was Buy or Die Securities."
In 1997, Chip was arrested in an FBI sting and agreed to cooperate. In June, the FBI busted 120 people, including Cimino, in the biggest security fraud case in history.
When Cimino appeared in court to seek bail, prosecutors played a tape of Cimino complaining about Chip's cooperation.
"Have Jimmy take care of him. I don't care how it's done....Go down there and put the gun in his mouth," Cimino says. "Put the gun in his hand, put it in his mouth, pull the trigger. Make it look like suicide."
Meanwhile, Chip said, with a sigh: "My life is in danger....I was an actor-turned-stockbroker. I didn't know what the hell I was doing."