Meet Denise Lombardo, The Loyal First Wife Of ‘Wolf Of Wall Street’ Jordan Belfort

Published May 30, 2024

A fictionalized version of Jordan Belfort’s wife Denise Lombardo was portrayed by Cristin Milioti in The Wolf of Wall Street — but what happened to the real Lombardo?

Denise Lombardo

Personal photoJordan Belfort, a.k.a. the “Wolf of Wall Street,” with a woman believed to be his first wife, Denise Lombardo.

Martin Scorsese’s 2013 film The Wolf of Wall Street tells the true story of Jordan Belfort, the infamous Wall Street trader who, in the 1990s, was caught perpetrating an elaborate stock fraud scheme through his firm Stratton Oakmont.

The film sparked some renewed interest in Belfort’s sensational crimes, and he’s since managed to capitalize on it, making frequent media appearances, posting videos of himself on TikTok, and giving motivational talks. But while Belfort never really left the public eye after the film’s release, the same cannot be said for his first wife, Denise Lombardo, who has lived a quiet, private life since her divorce from Belfort.

In The Wolf of Wall Street, Cristin Milioti plays a fictionalized version of Lombardo named Teresa Petrillo. The film shows Petrillo, a hairdresser, supporting Belfort through his turbulent early career in the stock market and acting as a voice of reason as he grows increasingly power-hungry. It is only after Belfort has an affair with a model, played by Margot Robbie, that they finally divorce.

So, who is the real Denise Lombardo? And how accurate was her depiction in The Wolf of Wall Street?

Denise Lombardo’s Early Life And Career

Unfortunately, very little is known about Denise Lombardo’s life.

While Jordan Belfort’s second and third marriages played out in the public eye, Lombardo married Belfort long before the fraudster made it on Wall Street and has lived a fairly private existence since, leaving much of her story in the hands of her notorious ex-husband.

According to the U.S. Sun, Lombardo was born on Nov. 11, 1963 in Ohio to parents Anthony Florito and Ann Lombardo.

Lombardo allegedly attended Bayside High School in Queens, New York before moving on to Adelphi University to study English literature.

According to some sources, she would later go on to study at Towson University in Maryland, taking a Business Administration and Science course, and gaining her Master’s in Educational Leadership and Administration at the Australian Catholic University. Several sources suggest Lombardo then pursued a career in real estate.

However, when Jordan Belfort met Lombardo, she was reportedly working in a hair salon.

Marriage To The ‘Wolf Of Wall Street’

Teresa Petrillo

Paramount PicturesCristin Milioti as Teresa Petrillo in The Wolf of Wall Street.

There are two conflicting accounts of how Jordan Belfort and Denise Lombardo first met.

A number of sources claim Belfort and Lombardo were high school sweethearts who met while they were both at Bayside High School. However, in his own memoir The Wolf Of Wall Street, Belfort claimed that when he first met Lombardo, he was working as a meat and seafood salesman on Long Island.

According to Belfort, he first laid eyes on Lombardo while trying to sell meat to the owner of the hair salon where Lombardo worked. When he saw her, he said he was “blown away” by how beautiful she was and asked for her number repeatedly before ultimately rushing home to pick up his Porsche in an attempt to impress her.

Evidently, this tactic worked. The pair reportedly married in 1985, when Belfort was still struggling to make a career for himself as a salesman. Around that time, Belfort was forced to file for bankruptcy at the age of just 25 — and soon made a fateful career pivot to stocks.

Belfort landed a job as a trainee stockbroker with L.F. Rothschild, and while his time with the company was short, it changed him. Realizing how much money he could make in the business, Belfort pushed on ahead, eventually meeting Danny Porush in 1988 and founding a firm with him: Stratton Oakmont.

As detailed in The Wolf of Wall Street, Belfort raked in mountains of cash through his “pump and dump” scheme. And as he did so, his lifestyle became one of drugs, wild parties, lavish spending, and overall excess.

Jordan Belfort

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

It wasn’t long before the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) began investigating Belfort’s company. But that alone didn’t cause his marriage to Denise Lombardo to deteriorate.

Rather, it was an affair Belfort had with model Nadine Caridi (named Naomi Lapaglia in the film).

Denise Lombardo And Jordan Belfort’s Divorce

Jordan Belfort claimed in his memoir that Denise Lombardo married him when he had “nothing,” stuck with him through the highs and lows of his career, and supported him as he made the pivot into stocks.

But when Belfort started to make money with Stratton Oakmont, Lombardo seemingly sensed that he was growing power-hungry, reportedly asking him, “Jordan, why can’t you get a normal job making a million dollars a year?”

Then, Belfort met “Miller Lite girl” Nadine Caridi at a party, and the two quickly struck up an affair. Belfort confessed that he cheated on Lombardo “dozens of times” with the model before Lombardo finally found out.

The pair split soon after, reportedly divorcing in 1991.

“I should’ve been horsewhipped for what I did to Denise,” Belfort wrote. “I don’t care if it’s Wall Street or Main Street. What I did was in-f***ing-excusable.”

He also noted that the affair was all over the newspapers.

“What a f***ing nightmare that must’ve been for Denise,” he wrote. “I mean, she was a twenty-five-year-old girl who was dumped for some young hot model. And the newspapers painted her to be some old socialite who’d lost her sex appeal — like she was being traded in for a girl who still had some life left in her!”

Belfort even confessed in his memoir that he’d never be able to trust his second wife, Caridi, the way he trusted Lombardo.

Leonardo Dicaprio And Margot Robbie The Wolf On Wall Street

Paramount PicturesMargot Robbie and Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street as Naomi Lapaglia and Jordan Belfort.

For her part, Denise Lombardo apparently dodged a bullet: In 1998, years after they divorced, Belfort was finally arrested for the large-scale fraud he’d committed with Stratton Oakmont.

During the investigation, Belfort became an informant for the FBI, wearing a wire and ultimately testifying against numerous associates in exchange for a more lenient sentence.

In 2003, Belfort was sentenced to four years in prison for his financial crimes, though he only served 22 months. He was also ordered to pay back $110.4 million to the stock buyers he had swindled.

Today, Jordan Belfort has become something of a social media personality with millions of followers on TikTok, leveraging his infamy into a form of online celebrity.

Denise Lombardo, meanwhile, shied away from any high-profile public appearances. As a result, much of what we know about her life comes from Belfort’s memoir The Wolf Of Wall Street — and its film adaptation.

How Accurate Is The Wolf Of Wall Street To Real Life?

It’s a question that comes up anytime a film is “based on a true story”: How accurate is it, really?

In the case of The Wolf of Wall Street, the film is at least quite accurate to its source material — which happens to be Belfort’s own memoir and personal recollection of events.

However, Belfort isn’t exactly known for his honesty, which makes much of his account suspect. Still, the bones of the story seem to line up with how things played out in the tabloids and major news outlets. And even some of the wildest details in the film appear to be true.

For example, Danny Porush (the inspiration for Jonah Hill’s character Donnie Azoff in the movie), really did marry and divorce his cousin. Porush also confessed to eating a live goldfish to intimidate a broker, as depicted in the film. Belfort really did sink a yacht formerly owned by Coco Chanel. He also crashed a helicopter while high.

And just like in the film, Belfort turned on many of his former friends and partners, including Danny Porush.

Jordan Belfort And Nadine Caridi

Personal PhotoJordan Belfort and Nadine Caridi.

That said, a number of people involved with Belfort in real life have since pointed to inaccuracies in Belfort’s version of events.

Belfort’s second wife, Nadine Macaluso (formerly Caridi), said in a video on TikTok: “If you look at [the film] through Jordan’s lens, it was really accurate. And I think that if you look at it through my lens, it wasn’t, and that makes sense because that was actually how our marriage was. However, I went to therapy, I became a therapist… and so I am able to discern his truth, my truth, and everything in between.”

Macaluso and Belfort divorced in 2005, with Macaluso accusing Belfort of domestic violence and infidelity.

Denise Lombardo, meanwhile, has remained relatively quiet about her own experiences with Belfort. Cristin Miloti reportedly didn’t have access to Lombardo while researching her role in The Wolf of Wall Street, and Belfort’s first wife has not made any public comments since the film’s release, so it’s not clear whether she found the film’s portrayal of her to be accurate.

It seems as if Lombardo has tried to distance herself from the whole affair. And based on how things turned out for Belfort and his fellow fraudsters, that may be a wise decision.

After reading about Jordan Belfort’s first wife Denise Lombardo, learn about some of history’s most infamous con artists. Or, read about Jordan Graham, and why she shoved her husband off a cliff eight days into their marriage.

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.
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Harvey, Austin. "Meet Denise Lombardo, The Loyal First Wife Of ‘Wolf Of Wall Street’ Jordan Belfort.", May 30, 2024, Accessed June 21, 2024.