Barry Minkow playing himself.  One reviewer: “Minkow can’t act a lick."
  • Barry Minkow playing himself. One reviewer: “Minkow can’t act a lick."
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In February, 2015 I wrote that Bruce Caulk, a part-time La Jolla resident, had a problem: as a movie producer/director, he had invested a bundle in a redemption movie about San Diegan Barry Minkow, who had run a huge Ponzi scheme as a teen, had been sentenced to prison, but had gotten out when he found God. He had become head pastor of San Diego Community Bible Church, also running Fraud Discovery Institute, which smelled out corporate scams, often for the government. A great turnaround movie, right?

Nope. Minkow, a recidivist self-promoter, had taken money from members of his flock to help finance the movie in which he would play a role. He had screwed them. He had screwed a large company which he had blasted in one of his scam reports. So, back to prison. (He is still an inmate at California’s Atwater U.S. Prison, near Atwater, and is scheduled to get out June 6 of next year.)

While Minkow was still a local minister, fawned over by national media, Caulk produced a movie, starring such big names as Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), and James Caan and Talia Shire (of The Godfather). But then Minkow went to prison again for those two major sins. Back in 2015, Caulk told me, “Sometimes you pull the yarn on a sweater and the whole thing unravels. We will have to integrate his repeated misbehaviors into the second act.”

This month, the new movie came out. Name: Con Man. It is not getting good reviews. “Minkow can’t act a lick and his interactions with the rest of the cast are painful,” says James Barber of, which bills the movie as “the weirdest movie of the year.” Writes Barber, “Obviously, real people lost real money investing in this movie and they deserve some kind of restitution…This is one for the all-time bad movies list. It may be the worst movie that any of the real stars from the cast have ever gotten sucked into making.”

Says, “The film begins to fall down when Mr. Minkow himself enters proceedings.” Minkow is “not a good actor.” Continues the review, “Con Man never reaches the giddy heights of Catch Me If You Can or.The Wolf of Wall Street In fact, to compare this to them is a fruitless exercise."

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dwbat March 22, 2018 @ 1:41 p.m.

Gee, what a surprise that it stinks! ;-/


Don Bauder March 22, 2018 @ 2:46 p.m.

dwbat: Yes, when I wrote the column in 2015, I could not see how Caulk could stitch this together. First, one actor played Minkow in his teens, and Minkow insisted on playing himself in middle age. It didn;t work, I am told. Then, the theme of the original was sin to redemption. A new version had to switch -- sin to redemption to sin. Difficult trick. Best, Don Bauder


swell March 22, 2018 @ 2:12 p.m.

Following some links to the original Minkow story, etc. Then I decided to google "Don Bauder" images just for fun. Yes, a very few pics of our hero, but look at all the other people. As I scrolled down the page there were so many familiar faces. People Don had reported on over many years. Politicians, developers, business moguls, movers & shakers … And guess what—mostly criminals!


Don Bauder March 22, 2018 @ 2:48 p.m.

swell: And a lot of people who should have been labeled criminals and gone to the slammer but didn't because of San Diego's twisted justice. Best, Don Bauder


dwbat March 22, 2018 @ 3:31 p.m.

Leno has still got it! Some killer jokes.


Don Bauder March 22, 2018 @ 4:02 p.m.

dwbat: We were outside a Siena restaurant when a big string of antique cars came by. Leno was supposed to be one of the drivers, but we didn't see him. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder March 22, 2018 @ 4 p.m.

shirleyberan: I have not seen Leno more than a couple of times (same for Carson) and have never seen Kimmel. I think Oliver is great, but don't watch his show. Best, Don Bauder


dwbat March 22, 2018 @ 7:09 p.m.

They should have made a Barry Manilow movie instead!


Don Bauder March 22, 2018 @ 8:04 p.m.

dwbat: Don't know about a Manilow flick, but as I understand it, Caulk stepped into a buzz saw. He put money in the film when it was still a sin-redemption movie. He had to navigate a sin-redemption-sin again flick. Best, Don Bauder


dwbat March 23, 2018 @ 11:24 a.m.

I should have used a smiley emoji there. That was satiric, not serious. But he's a much better "Barry" than Minkow, as he does charity events.


Don Bauder March 23, 2018 @ 2:38 p.m.

dwbat: Hmmm. Smiley Emoji. Sounds like a con man to me. Best, Don Bauder


Ponzi March 22, 2018 @ 8:12 p.m.

He knew how to act in this video:


And this is his 60 Minutes interview.... between prison stints...


dwbat March 23, 2018 @ 11:28 a.m.

I remember his sleazy commercials when I lived in LA. He reeked of con man even before he got caught and imprisoned.


Don Bauder March 23, 2018 @ 2:39 p.m.

dwbat: But he had Wall Street and the media snookered. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder March 23, 2018 @ 8:05 a.m.

Ponzi: Yes, Minkow is the quintessential con man -- probably a sociopath who feels no compunction about lying or conning people, or perhaps isn't even aware that he is doing so. He could be a psychotic narcissist; I am not a shrink. When he gets out of prison next year, he will no doubt go back to the same line of work -- he can't help himself.

But the guy is a genius. He can penetrate recondite scams, but as far as I know has had no formal training in forensic accounting. While he did not like some of the stories I did (such as "God's Scammers" in 2004 and one I did with the U-T), he would talk to me. I wrote about two very good studies he did on multi-level marketing companies.

He wanted me to do something on Lennar Corp., but I was wary, thinking he was tackling too big a company. I never saw his study on Lennar. If I remember correctly, the U-T was wary, too, and didn't print anything. Minkow is convincing; the programs he put on for the FBI and SEC were supposed to be very good.

In short, this is a complex sociopath. Psychiatrists interested in con artists should study Barry Minkow. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder March 23, 2018 @ 2:44 p.m.

Thomas Weller: A long time ago, when I was at the U-T, I did a column on a con man who was fleecing people to whom he sold camera film. So I called him a film-falm artist. Alas, the copy desk changed it back to flim-flam, even though I had marked it "stet," meaning that film-falm was what I wanted. Sigh. Best, Don Bauder


dwbat March 24, 2018 @ 11:12 a.m.

Sounds like that copy editor didn't know his Latin!


Don Bauder March 24, 2018 @ 12:45 p.m.

dwbat: Some of them didn't know English in those days. Best, Don Bauder


shirleyberan March 24, 2018 @ 11:14 a.m.

Don - sent the wrong tag-in, trying to find the recent one, better later, sorry sir.


Don Bauder March 26, 2018 @ 8:42 a.m.

shirleyberan: Maybe I should have watched Leno years ago. I missed something. Best, Don Bauder


shirleyberan March 25, 2018 @ 11:17 a.m.

Still wrong, thought it had more political points ;(


AlexClarke March 26, 2018 @ 7:05 a.m.

Of course he became a pastor as it is just another way to fleece the flock.


Don Bauder March 26, 2018 @ 8:46 a.m.

AlexClarke: Many scams are based on religion. I always say if you attend an investment seminar and it starts with a prayer, walk out. Setting one's self up as a religion is a tax scam. Believers are the easiest to scam. The crook can convince them that they can earn 1000 percent a year. They will believe. I doubt atheists and agnostics would bite. Best, Don Bauder


SportsFan0000 March 30, 2018 @ 9:41 a.m.

Barry Minkow missed his calling. He would have fit right in in the Executive Suites on Wall St. I could see him running Goldman, Citibank, AIG etc...tanking one of those companies and US and World Economy, getting billions and trillions to disappear, greasing palms to get Federal Government bailouts as a result of connections to the Revolving Door of Crooks on Wall St,
K Street, Congress and the WH Cabinet. The only difference between Minkow and those Crooks on Wall St and in DC is that Minkow was a comparative small fry and not as well connected.
They may all be sociopaths....The Wall St., K St, Congress and Executive Branch Sociopaths just are better connected, have the power and know how to use it to cover their a**** and get off with a get out of jail free pass....where they are never even charged with crimes that crashed the world economy in 2008...


Don Bauder March 31, 2018 @ 7:41 a.m.

SportsFan0000: Minkow is clearly a sociopath. There are plenty like him on Wall Street, although they are slicker and better educated, with advanced degrees from Harvard, Wharton, etc. Best, Don Bauder


SportsFan0000 March 30, 2018 @ 10:09 a.m.

Minkow's ego got the best of him with his movie attempt.
It appears to be more of an infomercial to attempt to make him some sort of a folk hero and to cleanse his sullied reputation to set the groundwork for his next con.

Minkow would have been smarter to hire a team of Hollywood pros to rewrite the script and a name Director to put it together. It had the potential to be a blockbuster like a local version of the Wolf of Wall St, The Big Short etc... But once again, his ego got the best of him....


dwbat Nov. 11, 2018 @ 12:08 p.m.

He should have received an extra 3 months sentencing, just for that ugly yellow and black shirt!


Don Bauder March 31, 2018 @ 7:45 a.m.

SportsFan0000: Minkow was in prison once again when the movie script was rewritten and the film was completed. Yes, Minkow was a self-promoter. He would tell me about the upcoming movie before he got nabbed a second time. He sent me a couple of books about himself. Best, Don Bauder


Don Bauder March 31, 2018 @ 8:27 p.m.

Sam Kephart: I am not surprised if Caulk is a good movie producer. If Minkow scammed Caulk, it wasn't the first time he scammed someone. Sadly, it won't be the last, either. After Minkow gets out of prison next year, my guess is that he will go back to conning people. Respectable operations will be loath to hire him. He won't be able to go back to preaching the gospel. But he will no doubt find something. Sociopaths do. Best, Don Bauder


SportsFan0000 April 1, 2018 @ 11:21 a.m.

Probably open up a telemarketing center to scam some other unsuspecting victims..


Don Bauder April 2, 2018 @ 12:45 p.m.

SportsFan0000: Minkow did very good reports on multi-level marketing companies before he did the Lennar disaster. He would put out a negative report on a company and then short the stock (betting it would go down.) That is legitimate as long as he revealed his position, and he did. He made good bucks on some of those pyramid scams but he told me that his investments just evened out. (That was before Lennar.) However, Fortune Magazine said that he was taking money under the table from companies he had whacked in print. Best, Don Bauder


denirein Nov. 10, 2018 @ 10:54 p.m.

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.


Ponzi Nov. 11, 2018 @ 7:27 p.m.

Most awaited? A punk sociopath that used the name of God to get early release from prison? Seriously?


danfogel Nov. 12, 2018 @ 7:59 a.m.

Look at the comment again. It's a spammer.


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