philip seymour hoffman

That time Philip Seymour Hoffman was a Toronto crook

Academy award winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman played several real-life characters on the big screen: Truman Capote, Lester Bangs, Oakland Athletics coach Art Howe, and even a wayward CIBC clerk from Toronto.

Hoffman, who died yesterday of an apparent drug over dose, according to a preliminary police report, played Bay Street bank banker Dan Mahowny, a character based on real-life embezzler Brian Molony, in the 2003 movie Owning Mahowny.

Molony was a mild-mannered Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce clerk with a voracious gambling habit. As part of his job, the chubby 26-year-old with distinctive thick-framed glasses was authorized to approve loans of up to $35,000, which he routinely issued to himself under fictitious names.

Using proceeds from some 93 fraudulent transactions, Molony would leave his Bay and Richmond office in a limousine, travel by private jet to Atlantic City, and routinely lose thousands at craps, baccarat, "almost anything" at the Caesar's Boardwalk Regency Hotel-Casino, one the largest gaming halls on the east coast.

On one disastrous trip Molony dropped $1.2 million of CIBC cash in a single night.

toronto brian molony

And he probably would have gotten away with it too if it wasn't for an ill-timed speeding ticket he received returning home from Toronto International Airport in 1982. The cops became suspicious when $30,000 in U.S. funds emerged from a search of Molony's car, a sum that was more than the clerk's annual salary.

$7,000 more was found stashed at the one-bedroom High Park Ave. apartment he shared with his girlfriend, and the scheme quickly unraveled.

In total, Molony embezzled more than $10 million, a crime which netted him six years in prison. Despite his high-profile downfall, he went on to marry his then-girlfriend, quit gambling, and return to work in the financial sector.

The fraud was one of the largest in Canadian banking history and formed the basis of Stung, a 1987 best-selling book by journalist Gary Ross. In 2003, Philip Seymour Hoffman was cast as a character based on Molony. The movie adaptation was one of film critic Roger Ebert's top ten films of the year.

Chris Bateman is a staff writer at blogTO. Follow him on Twitter at @chrisbateman.


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