SAN JOSE (KPIX 5) – Once a tagger who was arrested more than a dozen times, Tony Sanchez is now a millionaire entrepreneur. In return, he is giving back to the pastor and program that helped turn his life around.
Sanchez is now 25. He recently bought a Lamborghini in cash, a drop in the bucket for a man who has more millions than he has years.
“I was a millionaire by the time I was 23 years old. My net worth went up over the past 12 months to over $30 million.”
Not bad for kid who just a few years ago was running on the streets of San Jose as a tagger and gang member, who was arrested 14 times.
“He was hard,” said former vice principal Geneva Westendorf. “He was a hard guy and he had an attitude and he came into my office and I saw what he had done.”
Instead of kicking him out of school, Westendorf offered Sanchez school credit to attend an afterschool teen intervention program run by pastor Sonny Lara, himself a former gang member and parolee.
“At that moment, I decided to improve a lot of my associations. I decided to get out of street gangs and selling drugs and got a regular day to day job working at a shoe store,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez went on to get a job at a stockbroker’s office, earned commissions and invested well. He created an online marketing company and a fitness products business that has customers worldwide.
Now Sanchez is giving back. He is donating his former San Jose office building and $5,000 in cash to Pastor Sonny’s program, called “The Firehouse.”
“He could have become armed and dangerous. He could have become someone on fugitive watch. And now he’s wanted because he inspires young people that you could turn it around too,” Lara said.
Sanchez is now doing what others did for him, telling kids that they too can make it, if they try.
The program serves more than 1,000 at-risk teens a year.