Reddit’s war on Wall Street helped a California IT worker turn his coronavirus stimulus check into a $36,000 windfall, he told The Post.
The modest stock portfolio that Arya Hamzelou claims he opened with his family’s relief payment ballooned thanks partly to the social-media-fueled surge in shares of GameStop and AMC Entertainment, he said.
Hamzelou credited Reddit’s WallStreetBets forum for his apparent gain — but he says he studied his stocks carefully and pocketed about $22,000 even though the video-game retailer’s shares have crashed this week.
“I’m just a guy trying to do right by my family and let that money stretch,” said Hamzelou, an IT analyst for the Department of Veterans Affairs. “It’s not like I just randomly put my money into that one stock and it grew.”
GameStop was a recent addition to the portfolio Hamzelou said he started last summer after he and his wife received their initial $2,400 in stimulus money.
He added $500 for a tax rebate the couple expected to receive for the baby they had on the way and another $100 he made working overtime “to bring the number to a nice and round $3,000,” he said in a blog post detailing his investment experience.
After researching stocks on WallStreetBets and other corners of the internet, he said he used TD Ameritrade’s Thinkorswim app to invest $1,000 each in AT&T, hydrogen fuel cell producer Plug Power, and Cloudflare, an internet services company.
Hamzelou said his bet on Plug Power gave him a 700 percent gain that allowed him to start trading on margin, the practice of buying stocks with money borrowed from a broker.
“It is very risky so I don’t suggest you do it unless you are careful,” Hamzelou said on his blog. But, he added, “I wanted to see how far I can stretch that original stimulus check.”
Hamzelou says he used the tactic to buy 100 GameStop shares and 50 shares of TV streamer Fubo for $35 each on Jan. 14. A week and a half later he paid $4 apiece for 200 shares of AMC, the beleaguered cinema chain that was “the newest talk of the town on social media,” he wrote.
Then GameStop and AMC’s share prices exploded as Redditors fomented a populist insurrection in the stock market — ballooning the value of Hamzelou’s equity to $46,000 at one point, he claimed.
The staggering surge led Hamzelou and his wife to contemplate cashing in the gains, and they decided it was too much money to pass up, he said. He sold 80 GameStop shares last week and another 15 Tuesday morning as the price tumbled for a second straight day, he said.
Hamzelou said he also dumped his stake in AMC on Tuesday, leaving him with $21,684 in cash and some $14,312 still in stocks on Tuesday — including five GameStop shares.
Hamzelou provided The Post with screenshots showing the trades he made as well as part of his Thinkorswim account number. The Post asked tax expert and financial planner Harvey Bezozi to review the screenshots, and he said they appeared legitimate.
A TD Ameritrade spokesperson declined to comment on the screenshots.
Hamzelou said he’s not surprised that GameStop has tanked in light of the backlash from Wall Street bigwigs like billionaire investor Leon Cooperman, who reportedly attributed the Reddit rally to people “sitting at home, getting their checks from the government.”
To Hamzelou, those comments belie the fact that he and his wife, Elizabeth Manzo, earned the money that they could now spend on a new car and diapers for their baby daughter, Farah.
“I’m glad I got out and probably the only reason I got out is because I have a family now that could benefit from those gains,” Hamzelou said.
“The money will be well spent in ways that are much-needed right now,” he added.