Sonny Bloch, once a pioneer of financial talk radio, turned out to be a crook — and sullied the image of investing shows.
Irwin “Sonny” Bloch was perhaps the biggest financial radio success — and failure — of the past two decades. A lounge-singer-turned-financial-advisor-turned-radio-host, Bloch had a top-rated show between 1979 and 1995. Broadcasting out of New York and sometimes Tampa, Fla. to a group of ABC affiliates, Bloch had two million listeners at his peak.
“He did a good show,” recalls Jordan Goodman, a regular guest for 10 years and the ghostwriter of several of Bloch's books. “He'd have Greenspan on and he'd have Volcker…He had the top, top people as his guests.”
Then in the early 90s, questionable characters pushing diamonds, Russian art and gold started turning up on the show, says Goodman. These people, it turned out, had paid for their appearances. “These gold guys…they had bars painted yellow,” Goodman says. “It was that bad. There was no gold there. It was really just outright fraud.”
Bloch passed the point of no return when he went on the air and tried to sell unregistered shares in a group of Florida radio stations he was buying. He fled the country before the SEC could bring him in. He touched down in the Dominican Republic, where his wife owned a mountaintop plantation. “At the end, he was literally broadcasting from the plantation,” Goodman says, and neither WABC nor the federales knew where he was.
But Bloch, who'd advised millions about investing, made one crucial mistake with his own: “He thought there wasn't an extradition treaty with the Dominican Republic,” Goodman says, “There was.”
Interpol arrested Bloch in 1995. He wound up in a Newark prison in 1996 to begin serving a 21-month sentence for tax evasion. Goodman said he received a letter from Bloch from prison. It read like the ending of The Producers: “He was doing financial counseling for all the prisoners,” says Goodman. “He even convinced the judge to let him out…He was going to give the judge financial advice.”
Bloch, released early because of his failing health, died of throat cancer in 1998. But the sleazy reputation he gave financial talk radio lives on. “He really hurt the cause of financial radio,” Goodman says. “He really did.”