MARIN COUNTY (KPIX 5) – On Thursday nights at San Quentin, inmates pack a classroom to hear from a man they call “The Oracle.”
“I’ve made loads of money in the stock market, for a whole bunch of people,” said Curtis Carroll.
The San Quentin inmate was 17 when he killed a man during an Oakland robbery. Now at 36, Carroll is developing a different kind of reputation.
“He has a reputation of getting money,” said inmate Cleo Cloman III.
Clarence Long, also an inmate, said, “I mean, that’s one of the smartest youngsters I’ve ran into since I’ve been in prison.”
Rick Grimes, another inmate, said, “In some ways, to me, he’s a bit of a savant.”
Illiterate when he entered the prison system, Carroll taught himself to read. And then one day, he reached for the sports pages, and accidentally grabbed the business section.
“I couldn’t believe that this kind of access to this type of money, could be accessible to anybody. Everybody should do it. And it’s legal!” Carroll said.
So he developed his own strategy, and started investing. “Don’t buy stuff I don’t understand, and make sure that my research is very thorough,” Carroll said.
Since it’s technically illegal to run a business from inside a prison, quantifying his success is a bit of a challenge. But the anecdotal evidence is quickly becoming the stuff of legend.
“I’ve never seen somebody hit 17 for 17 picks on a stock before,” Grimes said.
And like any good investor – he keeps a lot of his secrets close to the vest.
“A bit of a prima donna sometimes when it comes to trying to get information out of him, ‘cause he’s like ‘If you really want to learn, study,’” Grimes said.
In fact, Carroll has developed three separate courses on financial management, a curriculum taught in prison vernacular.
“That’s something we all know, diversify, right? That’s the guy who is selling weed, and selling drugs. But how do we do that, and take the weed and the drugs out of it?” Carroll told the class.
And with money comes a little politics. “You know crazy thing is – I agree with Republicans on taxes,” Carroll said.
Turn on the television and plenty of people will promise you “fast money.” Behind the walls of San Quentin, inmates learn a different lesson
“Doing time is to be flexible, and to have patience,” Grimes said.
“I have learned patience the hard way,” Cloman said.
“But I know now, that you don’t have to have a lot of money, you could maybe start with maybe $500, $200. All you gotta do is be patient,” Long said.
And for Curtis Carroll – spreading that message has come with it’s own dividends.
“Helping the guys…really no words to express what it’s like to help people. All the noise, the ruckus and problems I caused doing crime, I gotta create 10 times that doing well, and doing good,” Carroll said.
How does he make his trades? Carroll said he uses the prison phone and snail mail to pass along instructions to family members.
Carroll has been given a sentence of 54 years to life. He will be eligible for parole in about six years.
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