“I knew what I was doing was wrong and criminal.” These were the words uttered by Bernard Madoff, the former NASDAQ securities head who pleaded guilty to counts of criminal charges ranging from securities fraud, money laundering, and just plain theft in a New York City courtroom Thursday morning, March 12. Madoff, whose security deal rip-offs have so far run to more than $65 Billion (and still counting) was afterwards led off to a Federal detention center to ponder his eventual fate; which could amount to as much as 150 years behind bars.
Madoff, age 70, had come alone to the courthouse; leaving his wife, his brother, and his two sons to wonder how his guilty plea might eventually affect them. Madoff went on to say that he cannot express how sorry he is for what he has done. Many of the individuals and representatives of the various charities and foundations that Madoff so cleverly ripped off were present in the courtroom. Although many expressed satisfaction of getting their “pound of flesh” by seeing him being led off by federal marshals, others visibly expressed their anger at having the money they had invested in Bernie’s non-existent securities funds literally blown away. One woman who lost her entire life savings said: “It’s fine that he pleaded guilty, but that’s not going to help his victims!”
Madoff’s security shuffling scams took place over a course of more than 20 years, or virtually since the last big securities market melt-down of October, 1987. He might have continued to fleece his many clients, had the market not collapsed last September, causing his crooked deals to surface when clients tried to redeem accounts that didn’t exist. His many high profile customers, many of them Jewish, had no problem trusting the man who not only had garnished the complete confidence of his investors, but also the confidence of religious organizations. Indeed, he was a member of the Board of Governors of Yeshiva University, one of American Judaism’s most prestigious academic institutions.
The sheer size and scope of Madoff’s operations make earlier financial scams such as the 2001 Enron Corporation fiasco seem like child’s play. During Madoff’s house arrest, when he was allowed to continue residing in his $7 million Manhattan penthouse, Federal GAO agents conducted an inventory of his personal possessions. It is estimated at $ 1 Billion worth of various possessions, including a number of real estate properties in several locations. All of these will only pay a fraction of what he owes to his many creditors.
It actually turned out that Madoff’s declared wealth, as of the end of 2008, was “only” $832 million.