Case Closed: Len Cipolla

On May 14, 2021 the CFTC or Commodity Futures Trading Commission obtained a final court order in the Eastern District of Virginia requiring Leonard Cipolla to pay $5.1 million in restitution for fraud. In particular, because of his phony and fraudulently produced record of trades.

Many readers might remember crazy Len from back in 2016-18 when he was being promoted on the seminar circuit. He was quite the showman. Apparently, he created a “secret trading system” that “virtually guaranteed” that anyone that purchased his amazing trading system at $5k per sucker would surely realize gains of 10-30% per month.

Crazy Len used to purr into the microphone of his live trading room that “I do it every day” and “it’s so easy.” And all you have to do is “remain disciplined and take the signals.”

As he explained, “a true master day trader remains disciplined like a sniper and only takes the kill shot when the markets perfectly align,” according to his trading system.

Laughably, he even claimed to be a “sniper in Vietnam” and had personally shot untold numbers of Vietcong warriors as he evaded bamboo booby traps and was bitten by the world’s most venomous snake. Or maybe it was a spider or a frog. He told the story so many times that it often changed but he always seemed to clean it up in the knick of time.

Regardless, he was quite the showman and a very entertaining fellow. As readers are aware, nearly all of these trading gurus have some sort of compelling life story and swashbuckler tales of how they killed a bear with their bare hands, and then overcame some sort of personal drama, and then started a hedge fund reemerging fabulously wealthy like a phoenix from the ashes. originally got a handful of complaints regarding crazy Len and his whacky trading system starting in 2015.

Well, it only took me about 15 minutes of searching to discover that crazy Len had filed bankruptcy in 2009 and he declared that his only assets were a $25 lawnmower and a dog. He did not assign a value to the dog. But of course, like the miracle huckster that he is…he discovers Futures trading and that the selling of trading systems are where the real money is made.

But what about his actual track record of trades? Glad you asked. Well, the truth is that Len actually did have two years of positive returns. Now considering that he had little prior experience, this is actually quite impressive. But the markets are a cruel mistress. What love they give you today can be cruelly ripped away tomorrow.

But Len was actually pretty clever. He took the original winning account statements and waved them about like the valor medals of a North Korean general. In other words, he parlayed those tiny little accounts into “proof” that he used to sell the magic trading system.

And good for him! Typically, when I write a review, I want a year of account statements so there was actually a pretty good chance he could have gotten a good review. However, the existence of the recent bankruptcy was a bridge too far. And besides, does anyone really believe that ANY trading system can essentially guarantee 30% per month? Those sorts of returns are screaming ‘scam’.

Beginning in late 2017, we started to get a trickle of complaints that were very disturbing. In particular, a customer claimed to have sent Len several thousands of dollars so that Len could trade on his behalf. Apparently, Len had expanded his funky trading system business to now being a “money manager.”

Hint: Whenever an online huckster selling magical trading systems starts claiming to be a “money manager” then the red flags really start waving. In the case of Len, the trickle of complaints turned into a persistent problem. When this happens, it’s time to start pushing consumers towards the complaint form at the CFTC.

A short time later, the CFTC started their inquiry. And believe me when I tell you…when these guys show up, your life is about to change. And it will be for the worse.

Several months after the CFTC investigation, the truth finally started to emerge. You see, what most people do not understand is that the CFTC has awesome subpoena powers. When they catch a whiff that any unregistered individual is offering “money management” then they immediately move hard and fast.

Poor Len was caught flat-footed. The CFTC quickly discovered that his recent years trading performance was pure fantasy. Additionally, he told his investors that the returns were real…they were not. In an instant, all of Len’s liquid assets were seized and the CFTC called in the FBI.

The FBI showed up at Len’s house and carted off his computer for a forensic examination. They also peeled open his phone records and emails directly from the service provider. What the FBI discovered was not promising. Apparently, Len had been running a small-scale Ponzi scheme where he would dole out a little bit of money to each investor, only to later report that “he had a bad month” and sadly he had lost all their money.

Most people did not complain as the individual amounts were relatively small, and this is the reason why Len got away with the little scam for a few years. But again, when the FBI shows up and finds a thread…they just keep on pulling on that thread until you are left threadbare, naked, and shivering in fear.

Len didn’t find much comfort in the lawyers either. For once the court seized his assets he could no longer afford an attorney. In others words, things were looking really bad.

Once the CFTC and the FBI concluded their investigation, one of two things usually happens. The first is that the CFTC brings a civil enforcement action. The second is that both the CFTC and US Attorney decide to bring both a civil enforcement action and a criminal complaint.

Len got a bad shake. He got double dipped. He got option two. And option number two is the worst. I should know.

In total, over a roughly ten year period, Len had sold plenty of his phony trading systems. And he probably could have flown under the radar and lived happy and free. But he got greedy and needed more. All told, Len accepted approximately $7 million from investors. Of this amount, $1.4 million was lost trading and $3 million was spent on the Ponzi. He ended up pocketing roughly $2.5 million which he spent on all manner of stupidity, including a gas powered paraglider and a motorcycle with three wheels.

The judge also wasn’t too impressed with Len and sentenced him to 10 years in Federal Prison. So we won’t be seeing crazy Len for a while.

Thanks for reading. Also a tidbit of fun information…you probably did not know this, but I actually write prison letters to many of the guys that are the subject of my articles. Its interesting to read their stories and perspectives on life in prison. Some are quite entertaining. For instance, a guy I wrote about back in 2014 is getting out shortly from his 10 year “vacation.” I have saved all of his letters, which is well over 100. In fact, he might just be writing articles for TradingSchools.Org in the near future.

Talk about “full circle.” Once again, thanks for reading.


One Response

  1. dtchurn May 17, 2021

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