The Rise And Fall Of Danny Porush, The Fraudster Who Inspired Jonah Hill’s Wolf Of Wall Street Character

Published April 2, 2024
Updated April 4, 2024

Danny Porush was one of the founders of Stratton Oakmont, the infamous brokerage behind the multi-million dollar “pump and dump” stock fraud scheme that would inspire The Wolf of Wall Street.

Martin Scorsese’s 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street was both a critical and commercial success, depicting the dramatic escapades of the movie’s titular “Wolf,” Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio). But while Belfort’s story may be at the heart of the film, he was hardly alone in his multi-million dollar pump and dump scheme. In the film, his right-hand man is Jonah Hill’s Donnie Azoff — based on the real-life Danny Porush.

While Porush may not have gone the route of Belfort — turning his large-scale financial crimes into a book, selling the movie rights, and then pivoting to becoming a public figure on TikTok — he was just as involved in the Stratton Oakmont stock fraud scheme.

Danny Porush

Personal PhotoDanny Porush inspired the character “Donnie Azoff” in The Wolf of Wall Street.

In fact, not only did Danny Porush help Belfort found Stratton Oakmont, he also later got involved with yet another fraud operation — one that was cited as part of the reason for the Stop SCAMS Act of 2014.

This controversy even earned Porush his own nickname: The Wolf of Boca Raton.

From Loving Husband To Wall Street ‘Wolf’

Daniel Mark Porush was born in February 1957 and grew up in Lawrence, New York. The son of a doctor, Porush attended Woodmere Academy before moving on to study at both Dickinson College and Boston University, though he never graduated.

In elementary school, he befriended Steve Madden, who would go on to become the famous fashion designer behind the shoe company of the same name. But after leaving college, Porush did not follow the same corporate path. Rather, according to a 2001 New York Magazine article, he floated between jobs, working for a number of small businesses.

Then, in 1988, while watching his son play in a playground in Queens, Porush met Jordan Belfort, a former door-to-door salesman and fellow college dropout. Belfort bragged to Porush about how much money he was making at the time selling stocks out of a boiler room — roughly $50,000 a month.

Donnie Azoff

Paramount PicturesJonah Hill as Donnie Azoff, the character inspired by Danny Porush.

According to Porush, Belfort admitted that the business was “half a scam.” But the temptation to follow in Belfort’s footsteps was too great to resist.

Two months later, the pair started their own firm together.

According to Porush’s ex-wife and cousin, Nancy, this marked a major change in who Porush was as a person.

As she told the New York Post in 2013, when they were making less money, Danny Porush had been a “wholesome” person trying his best to make things work. He “liked the simple things” in life. Most importantly, she said, “Danny never seemed to care about money.”

That changed after he met Belfort.

“After just one conversation,” she said, “Danny came back and announced he was taking the Series 7 exam to get his stockbroker’s license… Almost as soon as he began working with Jordan, making big bucks became an obsession.”

Danny Porush, The Real-Life Donnie Azoff

Stratton Oakmont, the “over-the-counter” brokerage house that Danny Porush and Jordan Belfort started, was based on Long Island. It specialized in selling “penny stocks” — low-cost common shares of small public companies.

In reality, the two were running a classic “pump and dump” scheme, manipulating the market by artificially inflating prices and then selling off all of their stocks to cash in just before the bubble burst.

Basically, they were ripping people off, and raking in millions in the process.

Nancy And Danny Porush

Personal PhotoNancy and Danny Porush are reportedly cousins.

As dramatized in The Wolf of Wall Street, Belfort and Porush were living the lavish life, partying and flaunting their wealth at every opportunity. Porush himself spent his millions extravagantly on beach homes, Bentleys, and a private plane.

However, the film took some liberties in how it depicted the duo’s lifestyle.

Porush did, in fact, marry his first cousin, as depicted in the movie. He also admitted to eating a live goldfish to intimidate a broker. However, he claimed that he never tossed a person with dwarfism or brought a monkey into the office. In fact, he even threatened to sue the production if he was depicted in it at all, hence the character “Donnie Azoff” filling Porush’s role.

But that doesn’t mean Porush was innocent.

“I’ll always remember watching Danny posturing and posing, acting like a high roller and wondering whether I really knew him at all,” his ex-wife said. “Meanwhile, Danny often had me sign different papers, stock certificates and these confusing legal documents… I didn’t know I was signing my life away. I now know he was putting assets in my name as part of the fraud he was committing.”

This fraudulent scheme went on throughout the late 1980s and into the 1990s, even as the National Association of Securities Dealers and Securities and Exchange Commission started cracking down on Stratton Oakmont.

Most of the heat was on Belfort initially, and he was eventually forced to step down from his role at the company. By 1994, Danny Porush had stepped up and taken over as Stratton’s CEO.

But it all came crashing down on him in the end.

Belfort And Porush At Dinner

Personal PhotoJordan Belfort, Danny Porush, and their partners.

The Fall Of Stratton Oakmont

On Labor Day weekend in 1997, Danny Porush moved his family to Boca Raton, Florida, where he had been running his base of operations for about a year. It was this very same weekend that he called home, telling Nancy, “You have to get here right away. They’re taking me to jail.”

“They” were the FBI.

Belfort, who had also been arrested, was soon released on $10 million bail. Porush, on the other hand, was considered a flight risk due to his private plane. He was held in the Brooklyn Detention Center for over three months.

He was finally released from prison in the winter of 1997, returning home to his family where Nancy welcomed him with a steak dinner.

Then, in April 1998, Porush revealed to Nancy that he had been having an affair — and that the other woman was pregnant with his child.

“I couldn’t believe it,” she said. “I’d stood by him through all the drama and all the lawsuits and he thanked me by cheating on me.”

When Porush pleaded guilty to securities fraud and money laundering in 1999, it also caused problems for Nancy, given that her name was also on some of the documents.

And for Porush, it was far from the last time he would get into legal trouble.

Jordan Belfort

Sash Alexander/Alamy Stock PhotoJordan Belfort, the “Wolf of Wall Street.”

Danny Porush’s Later Controversies And Legal Issues

Released from prison in 2004, Danny Porush was not one to be easily defeated. By then, he and Nancy were divorced and Porush was seeing Lisa Krause, the woman who would become his second wife. Once again, Porush put his wife’s name on important documents to avoid accountability.

For example, as Forbes reported in 2008, when Nancy sued Porush for failing to pay child support in 2006, he claimed he had no assets and that everything actually belonged to Lisa.

Beyond his personal issues, Porush also landed himself in trouble with another business venture. This time, Porush was selling medical supplies under a company called Med-Care Diabetic & Medical Supplies — also known as Christian Diabetics, or the Christian Healthcare Network.

A number of people began receiving unsolicited calls and packages from Med-Care, encouraging them to buy diabetic supplies through them and to provide physician information so that they could be billed to Medicare.

In one such case, a man named Wayne Parker told Forbes that his mother had received an unsolicited package from Christian Diabetics. Parker sent it back, only to notice a $500 charge on his mother’s subsequent Medicare statement.

In 2014, Porush and five other executives at Med-Care were named in a whistleblower lawsuit that alleged fraudulent Medicare claims.

Real Life Donnie Azoff

Boca Rotan PoliceDanny Porush’s mugshot from his DUI arrest.

Two other former Med-Care employees later joined the lawsuit, claiming Med-Care had defrauded the federal government and used high-pressure sales techniques to coerce people into buying medical supplies they otherwise would not have wanted.

This prompted the FBI to raid Med-Care’s Boca Raton offices in January 2015.

Additionally, Porush’s involvement with the company was cited in a congressional hearing on Medicare fraud in April 2013. A year later, he was cited once again as part of the reason for the federal Stop SCAMS Act of 2014.

And finally, in August 2021, Danny Porush was jailed on a DUI charge after being found with a bottle of Titos vodka in his car along with prescription pills. A breathalyzer test revealed he had a blood alcohol content of .261. The legal limit in Florida is .08.

Porush had been speeding through a 35 mile per hour zone at 71 miles per hour.

Since then, Danny Porush’s name hasn’t made any other major headlines. But if there’s one thing that can be said about Danny Porush, it’s that he never gives up.

After learning about Danny Porush, the real-life Donnie Azoff, read about Danny Rolling, the Gainesville Ripper who inspired Scream. Or, read about some of history’s most infamous con artists.

Austin Harvey
A staff writer for All That's Interesting, Austin Harvey has also had work published with Discover Magazine, Giddy, and Lucid covering topics on mental health, sexual health, history, and sociology. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Point Park University.
Maggie Donahue
Maggie Donahue is an assistant editor at All That's Interesting. She has a Master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and a Bachelor's degree in creative writing and film studies from Johns Hopkins University. Before landing at ATI, she covered arts and culture at The A.V. Club and Colorado Public Radio and also wrote for Longreads. She is interested in stories about scientific discoveries, pop culture, the weird corners of history, unexplained phenomena, nature, and the outdoors.