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A '30 Under 30' Recipient Was Indicted For Fraud — And He's Not the Only One. Here Are 5 Former Honorees Who Turned Out to Be Felons From promising prodigies to notorious felons, these are the most infamous former "30 Under 30" honorees who went from celebrated entrepreneurs to convicted criminals.

By Entrepreneur Staff

Key Takeaways

  • An infamous group of entrepreneurs-turned-felons were praised by the public and media for their early success before authorities discovered the illicit shortcuts that got them there.
  • Here's a look at the dark side of age lists like "30 Under 30."
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In June, Nate Paul, an investor once regarded as a "real estate prodigy," was indicted on eight felony charges for allegedly making false statements on loan applications, which ultimately led to banks loaning the investor over $170 million. According to the indictment, in one application, Paul claimed to have an account with $31.6 million in cash, when in reality the account in question had less than $500,000. Paul's alleged violations took place between March 2017 and April 2018.

In 2017, Paul was named in Forbes Magazine's much sought-after list of "30 Under 30," a compilation that pays homage to those who have made remarkable strides in the business world before the age of 31. However, his recent indictment isn't just a one-off situation wherein a businessman turned out to be a possible con.

Paul, who pleaded not guilty to the charges and awaits trial, has joined the infamous group of "30 Under 30" honorees who were praised by the public for their early success — before authorities discovered the illicit shortcuts that got them there.

Since 2011, the magazine has used the annual list to celebrate and honor entrepreneurs who have excelled in their fields early in their careers. The company thoroughly vets each of the nearly 100,000 nominees annually. As the Guardian's Betsy Reed notes, "The problem here isn't Forbes, the problem is the vision of success that we've been sold and the fetishizing of youth. 30 Under 30 isn't just a list, it's a mentality: a pressure to achieve great things before youth slips away from you."

So, next time you're feeling discouraged about not reaching your goals by a certain age, remember these entrepreneurs-turned-felons who were once honored for their accomplishments in their youth. And those accomplishments? They wouldn't have been possible without cutting corners and crossing legal lines.

Sam Bankman-Fried

Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of cryptocurrency exchange FTX, was named to the list in 2021 for Finance.

Bankman-Fried started Alameda Research in 2017, and later founded FTX in 2019, which was valued at $32 billion in 2022. But in November of that year, FTX filed for bankruptcy after struggling to raise funds and facing a liquidity crisis, and U.S. prosecutors accused him of fraud. He was arrested in the Bahamas in December 2022 and charged with defrauding investors in a scheme that led to the bankruptcy of his company.

In February, four additional charges were added to his docket for conspiring to make over 300 illegal political donations. Currently, Bankman-Fried is out on bail, living at his parents' house, and awaiting trial (which is scheduled for October).

Related: Who Is FTX Founder Sam Bankman-Fried and What Did He Do? Everything You Need to Know About the Disgraced Crypto King

Elizabeth Holmes

Elizabeth Holmes founded Theranos in 2003, a company that promised a revolutionary blood testing technology, and was once hailed as the world's "youngest self-made female billionaire." The company caught the attention of high-profile investors and companies (many of which never even saw the technology before investing) and raked up partnerships with big-name brands like Safeway and Walgreens.

Holmes was never officially on the "30 Under 30" list, however, she did headline the "Under 30 Summit" in 2015, where she also accepted the "Under 30 Doers Award" for her work in the healthcare industry and the potential impact of her company's technology.

However, just weeks after accepting her Doers Award, Holmes became the subject of an investigation by The Wall Street Journal, raising questions about the legitimacy of her technology. What ensued was nothing short of one mishap after another: failed lab inspections, a slew of lawsuits, and the not-to-be-forgotten net worth dip of $4.5 billion to $0 in 2016.

Finally, in 2018, it was revealed that the technology simply didn't work, the company collapsed, and Holmes was charged by the SEC with "massive fraud," alleging Holmes knowingly misled investors and the public.

Elizabeth Holmes speaking during the 2015 Fortune Global Forum in San Francisco, California, in 2015. David Paul Morris | Getty Images.

After nearly a year of delays due to the pandemic, Holmes' trial began in 2021, and she was ultimately convicted on four counts of fraud in 2022 and sentenced to 11 years in prison. After a request for a new trial was denied in November 2022, Holmes began her sentence in May 2023. Through it all, Holmes has maintained her innocence. She is currently serving time in prison in Bryan, Texas.

Holmes' story of deceit has been the subject of widespread media coverage, including a 2019 HBO documentary, The Inventor, and 2022 Hulu miniseries, The Dropout (for which Amanda Seyfried won an Emmy for her portrayal of the disgraced founder).

Related: I Worked Side By Side With Elizabeth Holmes. She Seemed Like a Visionary, but We Were All Duped — and It's a Comfort to See Justice Served.

Charlie Javice

Charlie Javice, known for her college financial planning startup Frank, was indicted in May 2023 for wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy charges. Javice's alleged crimes center on exaggerating the value of her startup during its acquisition by JPMorgan Chase in 2021.

Javice was named to the list in 2019 in the category of Finance after founding her company Frank, which aimed to help students apply for loans more efficiently.

Prosecutors claim that she misled the bank by fabricating data and inflating the number of Frank customers. Javice allegedly asked her director of engineering to create fake data, but when he refused, she hired a data scientist to generate a spreadsheet with millions of false user accounts for the $175 million acquisition, and JPMorgan ultimately acquired the app.

However, in November 2022, an internal investigation led to her termination, followed by her arrest in April. In January 2023, JP Morgan sued Javice for defrauding the company. Javice now faces charges of securities fraud, wire fraud, bank fraud, and conspiracy. She is currently out on bail and has maintained her plea of not guilty.

Martin Skrekli

Martin Shkreli was named to the list in 2012 for Finance. At the time, he was recognized for his work as a hedge fund manager and entrepreneur. Shkreli had gained attention for his success in the biotech industry, particularly his involvement with Retrophin, a pharmaceutical company he founded.

Shkreli went on to co-founded several hedge funds and pharmaceutical companies, including Turing Pharmaceuticals, which notoriously acquired the life-saving antiparasitic and antimalarial drug, Daraprim and then raised its price by 5,455% in 2015. The move earned Shkreli, then called "Pharma Bro," another title: "the most hated man in America."

In December 2015, he was arrested on charges of securities fraud and conspiracy. The charges stemmed from his involvement with two hedge funds, MSMB Capital Management and MSMB Healthcare, as well as Retrophin.

Shkreli was accused of mismanaging funds, using assets from one of his companies to pay off debts from another, and defrauding investors. The allegations included a scheme in which he illegally used Retrophin's assets to repay investors who had lost money in his hedge funds.

Peter Foley | Getty Images

In 2017, he was convicted of securities fraud and conspiracy, resulting in a seven-year prison sentence and significant fines.

In 2022, Shkreli was released from prison (about four months early) and is now consulting for a law firm and living with his sister in Queens, New York, according to the U.S. Probation Office.

Related: 'The Most Hated Man in America' Where Is Pharma Bro Martin Shkreli Now?

Shkreli also gained notoriety in 2015 when he purchased the sole copy of the Wu-Tang Clan album, "Once Upon a Time in Shaolin," for $2 million at an auction. Fans and the music industry vets criticized the lack of accessibility to such a culturally significant work, exacerbated by Shkreli's decision to keep it as a rare collectible without plans for a public release.

Following his conviction, the album was seized by the government (along with his other assets) and ultimately sold in 2021 as part of the forfeiture process. The sale of the album completes Shkreli's payment of the forfeiture, and the buyer and price remain confidential.

Obinwanne Okeke

Obinwanne Okeke, a Nigerian-born entrepreneur, was revered for his achievements in construction, agriculture, and real estate. But in 2021, he was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his role in a computer-based fraud scheme that caused approximately $11 million in losses to his victims.

Okeke operated a group of companies — including the Invictus Group, which was the center of Okeke's 2016 "30 Under 30" title — but ultimately conducted various computer-based frauds from 2015 to 2019.

Okeke's scheme involved obtaining credentials from hundreds of victims and engaging in "email compromise." Through fraudulent wire transfer requests and fake invoices, Okeke and his conspirators transferred nearly $11 million overseas. Okeke also carried out other forms of cyber fraud, including phishing emails and creating fraudulent web pages. Okeke is serving his sentence and will be released in 2028.

Entrepreneur Staff

Entrepreneur Staff


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