Great frauds in history: how Joyti De-Laurey became “the Picasso of con artists”

Joyti De-Laurey forged the signatures of her bosses at Goldman Sachs and started writing cheques to herself. Over many years, she netted £4.3m.

Joyti De-Laurey © Graeme Robertson/Getty Images
(Image credit: Joyti De-Laurey)

Joyti De-Laurey was born Joyti Schahhou in 1970 in London and grew up in Hampstead. She worked as a sales assistant in an Aston Martin showroom before setting up a sandwich bar business with her spouse Tony De-Laurey. When it failed she signed up as a temp and was sent to Goldman Sachs. She gained a reputation for being an efficient worker and was hired as a full-time personal assistant for investment banker Jennifer Moses, also taking on tasks for Moses’ husband, Ron Beller. When Moses left Goldman, De-Laurey went on to work as an assistant to banker Scott Mead.

What was the scam?

Goldman personal assistants were expected to help organise the private lives of their bosses. De-Laurey would later claim that this involved routinely forging the signatures on personal cheques in order to cover their household bills and expenses. The temptation proved to be too much for her and she started writing cheques to herself, starting with one for £4,000. By the time she was working for Mead, she was forging money transfers by attaching additional pages to legitimate transactions. She spent the money on lavish holidays, villas and even £400,000 in jewellery.

What happened next?

By 2002 De-Laurey was planning to leave Goldman and start a new life with her family in Cyprus. But while she was working out her notice, Mead decided to make a donation to Harvard University. When he discovered that he hadn’t enough money in his investment account to cover the donation, he investigated and discovered the theft. De-Laurey was arrested and her accounts were frozen. Two years later she was convicted of multiple counts of fraud and obtaining money by deception. De-Laurey was described in court by Mead as the “Picasso of con artists”. Her mother and her husband were also convicted of money laundering.

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Lessons for investors

De-Laurey is believed to have stolen £4.3m (equivalent to £7m in today’s money), including a single £2.25m transfer from one of Mead’s investment accounts, and only part of the money was recovered. Both the bankers involved and Goldman Sachs received a huge amount of negative publicity for the fact that it had taken them so long to become aware of the thefts. It is a good idea regularly to check your savings and investment accounts to make sure there are no unexplained withdrawals or errors.

Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

Follow Matthew on Twitter: @DrMatthewPartri