ZZZZ Best and Barrie Minkow—saint or sinner?
Justice will overtake fabricators of lies and false witnesses.
Heraclitus (c535–c475 BC)
The strange tale of convicted fraudster and church minister Barry Minkow’s rise, fall, rise again and fall again, starts in 1983 and was still producing unexpected twists and turns in the spring of 2011 when I was first drafting this chapter. Further revelations in his extraordinary tale may well have hit the headlines by the time that you are reading this. Minkow is himself author of two books devoted to the story of the major fraud that sent him to Federal prison, sentenced to 25 years, as well as other books and publications around identifying fraud in corporate organisations.
By any standards, Minkow’s tale is a strange one to relate. Brought up in the rougher end of a respectable middle class area in California, Minkow started a carpet cleaning business from his parents’ garage when just sixteen, with his mother as his only employee, after taking out a loan at a usurious rate from a local moneylender. He called his company ZZZZ Best (pronounced ‘zee best’) and set about turning it from a small one-man business into a millionaire enterprise that at its peak was worth nearly US$300 million.
PHASE I—THE RISE AND RISE OF BARRY MINKOW AND ZZZZ BEST
Minkow had started ZZZZ Best in late 1982 with a crippling loan that he couldn‘t afford to repay legitimately, so he set about finding less legitimate ways to keep the loan sharks ...