A Queens teen says a viral magazine story portraying him as a stock-market whiz was all made up.
A day after New York magazine published a story online describing how Stuyvesant High School senior Mohammed Islam made millions of dollars by trading stocks in his free time, the teen admitted to the Observer that he'd lied and that he has not invested a single dollar in the stock market.
"I am incredibly sorry for any misjudgment and any hurt I caused," he said in an interview with the Observer Monday. "The people I'm most sorry for is my parents. I did something where I can no longer gain their trust."
Islam initially told New York magazine that his net worth was "in the high eight figures" and that he began trading penny stocks when he was 9 years old. He said that he swore off investing when he lost money that he had made tutoring, then studied up on finance and eventually began playing the stock market, trading commodities like gold and oil and quickly amassed a fortune.
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But in the interview with the Observer Monday, Islam, who is the president of his school's investment club, said he only saw success in his simulated trades -- and that he led the New York magazine reporter to believe he'd made more than $72 million in those trades.
"All I can say is for the simulated trades, I was very successful. The returns were incredible and outperformed the S&P," he said.
After Islam and a friend, Damir Tulemaganbetov, also mentioned in the New York magazine article, canceled a CNBC appearance Monday, they decided to come clean to the Observer through an interview conducted at a public relations office.
Islam said, "my dad wanted to disown me" and that "my mom basically said she'd never talk to me" after they read the story.
"Their morals are that if I lie about it and don’t own up to it then they can no longer trust me. … They knew it was false and they basically wanted to kill me and I haven’t spoken to them since," he said.
During their lunchtime interview with New York magazine, Islam and two of his friends had spent $400 on apple juice and caviar. They told the reporter they planned to attend college next year but also hoped to start a hedge fund in June, after Islam turns 18 and is old enough to get a broker-dealer license.
In an updated version of the article online, New York magazine adds in an editor's note that Islam "provided bank statements that showed he is worth eight figures, and he confirmed on the record that he’s worth eight figures." It has not yet acknowledged the Observer story.