A New York City high school senior grabbed plenty of headlines yesterday after being named one of New York magazine's "Reasons We Love New York." What was so loveable and New York-y about Mohammed Islam? As the headline of reporter Jessica Pressler's piece proclaimed, "Because a Stuyvesant Senior Made $72 Million Trading Stocks on His Lunch Break." Except the 17-year-old totally didn't, Mohammed now tells the Observer's Ken Kurson. In an interview that took place in the offices of his newly engaged PR firm, with a lawyer by his side, Mohammed says "No, No, Yes" as answers to the following: Did he, as Pressler wrote, make eight figures? Has he invested and made anything off it? Is the story complete fiction? He tells the Observer that he does run an investment club at his school, and that his simulated trades' return was pretty impressive.
And, yeah, he did lead Pressler to believe "I had made even more than $72 million on the simulated trades." But as the head of his new PR firm says in a statement to NBC News, "A 17-year old boy who lives in Elmhurst, Queens, responded to a reporter's inquiry and created an inaccurate story. ... His millions are about as real as monopoly money." Kurson's take? A few minutes with a calculator would have prevented another fact-checking mess. "Even if this working-class kid had somehow started with $100,000 as a high school freshman on day one at Stuy High, he’d have needed to average a compounded annualized return of something like 796% over the three years since. C’mon, man." New York, for its part, maintains that "Mohammed provided bank statements that showed he is worth eight figures, and he confirmed on the record that he’s worth eight figures." (Read more fact checking stories.)