Without a doubt, it was the wedding of the year: Chelsea Clinton - the only daughter of former U.S. president Bill Clinton and his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton - married Marc Mezvinsky, who is Jewish, in a modest, top-secret and star-studded wedding ceremony.
The guests at the July 31 event included well-known figures from America's political, business and entertainment worlds, such as former secretary of state Madeleine Albright, billionaire Steve Bing and actor Ted Danson. Also in attendance, in addition to members of America's elite, was a former prison inmate, who served five years in a federal penitentiary after being convicted of fraud whose value exceeded $10 million, one of whose victims was his own mother-in-law: Ed Mezvinsky, a former member of Congress and the father of the happy bridegroom.
Chelsea Clinton, 30, and Marc Mezvinsky, 32, have much in common: They are both graduates of Stanford University and veterans of Wall Street (Clinton worked for Avenue Capital Group, a hedge fund manager; Mezvinsky currently works at G3 Capital, a Manhattan hedge fund ) - and they are both scions of families that are part of America's political nobility (Mezvinsky's mother is also a former Democratic member of Congress ).
The two first met in 1993 and made their public debut as a couple in 2005. Both have been forced to live in the shadow of affairs involving their parents: Clinton had to deal with her father's notorious sex scandals, while Mezvinsky had to live with his father's run-ins with the law.
At least on paper, Ed Mezvinsky, now 73, might have been expected to act much more prudently. A member of a family that owned a chain of supermarkets, Mezvinsky inherited a modest amount of capital. He was also a football, basketball and track star in high school. At 36, he was already serving as a U.S. representative from Iowa, where he met the woman who would become his second wife, Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky. A political correspondent for NBC at the time, she was subsequently elected as a Congresswoman representing Philadelphia (she served a single term, 1993-95 ); several years later, she divorced Ed.
A member of the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives that voted to recommend the impeachment of president Richard Nixon in 1974, the groom's father - after his second term of office as a representative ended - served as the U.S. representative to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. After he left Congress, Mezvinsky and his wife Marjorie Margolies moved to Pennsylvania, where, in 1980, Ed made an unsuccessful bid for nomination to the Democratic candidacy for a U.S. Senate seat.
The couple settled in the suburbs of Philadelphia, where they apparently sought to become part of the elite society at any price. The couple became close friends with Bill and Hillary Clinton. Margolies cast the deciding vote supporting the 1993 Clinton budget, which called for increasing federal taxes - a move that cost Margolies her seat in the next election. But her support for the president did lead to a blossoming of the Mezvinskys' friendship with the president and his wife, and Marjorie and Ed became regular guests at official dinners in the White House. This is how their two children met.
Financially, however, the 1990s were a difficult time for Ed Mezvinsky. After two costly, failed political campaigns in Pennsylvania (for the Senate nomination in 1980, and for state attorney general eight years later ), he moved from politics to business. He founded a grain export firm and a medical equipment company, but both firms ended up declaring bankruptcy. Then he saw his great business opportunity in a deal that was offered to him in, of all places, Nigeria.
Con job in Africa
Today, nearly everyone who has a link to the Internet and an e-mail account knows about "Nigerian scams": A person claiming to be, for example, a senior government official from a remote country contacts the intended "victim," asking for help in smuggling a large sum of money out of Nigeria. In return, he promises the victim a significant amount of the money. Mezvinsky fell for the bait offered by con artists who used the same method to defraud him at least three times. To persuade friends and acquaintances to loan him the money he needed to fund his participation in these bogus schemes, Mezvinsky boasted about his connections with the Clintons and the friendship between his son and Chelsea.
So deeply was Mezvinsky drawn into the get-rich-quick scheme that he traveled to Nigeria on several occasions, where he was told he would be picking up millions of dollars in bills that were to be coated with black ink that could be removed with a special chemical once smuggled past customs officials.
Ultimately, Mezvinsky lost $3 million. Interviewed by ABC News in December 2006, federal prosecutor Bob Zauzmer noted that Mezvinsky had been a victim of "just about every different kind of African-based scam we've ever seen." Without any fixed income, Mezvinsky began stealing money from the clients he represented in his law practice, from friends, from friends of friends, even from his own mother-in-law.
"He was always looking for the home run," Zauzmer added, "He was always trying to find the business deal that would make him as wealthy as all the people in his social circle."
Mezvinsky would tell potential investors that he needed an advance payment in order to be able to bid for a prestigious oil contract in Nigeria or for other projects, and would claim he could double their investment. In order to win their trust, he would remind them that he was on very friendly terms with the Clintons. According to Zauzmer, between 1995 and 2000, Mezvinsky recruited $13.3 million, which he deposited in several bank accounts. Of that sum, he used 44 percent to pay off creditors, sent 20 percent to the Africans with whom he was making deals, and withdrew another 17 percent in cash.
In 2000, Margolies sought the Democratic nomination for senator from Pennsylvania. However, she was forced to withdraw from the race after investors began to demand their money and FBI agents raided the couple's estate. The Mezvinskys declared bankruptcy.
In March 2001, Mezvinsky was indicted on 69 counts of bank, mail and wire fraud. According to the prosecution, he was responsible for fraudulent activities that spanned a period of two decades with a total of $15 million recruited through 8,000 business deals. He claimed he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but the federal judge presiding at his trial was unwilling to admit such a line of defense. Mezvinsky also argued that he had been led to these fraudulent acts because of his costly election campaigns and because of the tuition fees for the schools that his 11 children attended (four daughters from a previous marriage, two sons from his marriage with Margolies, two daughters she had adopted before their marriage, and three foreign children that the couple had adopted ).
In April 2008, he was released from prison, but will likely remain on federal probation until 2011. He also is said to still owe millions of dollars to his victims. "Fast-Talkin' Eddie," as he was dubbed by political correspondents in the 1970s, has been given in recent years a new nickname by local newspapers in Philadelphia: "Crazy Eddie."
After his release from prison two years ago, Mezvinsky kept a low profile. Initially, he expressed interest in writing a book about his experiences, but it was reported that his son Marc quickly talked him out of that idea.
Ed Mezvinsky told CBS's "Inside Edition" shortly before the wedding: "I'm a proud papa ... The family's excited ... These are two wonderful human beings that have sensitivity about life and have a warm regard for family and that's what it's really all about ... The guidelines are we don't talk about the wedding, we just enjoy each other."
In the wedding pictures Chelsea and Marc have published, one sees only Bill and Hillary Clinton with the happy couple; the groom's parents are nowhere to be seen. One thing is certain: When he married off his son to the daughter of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Ed Mezvinsky received what he had been seeking all of his life. He now really and truly belongs to the elite of American society.
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