Bernard Madoff, King of Ponzi

This post was written by jd on September 30, 2009
Posted Under: Business
This chart shows how a pyramid scheme (also known as a Ponzi scheme) is impossible to substain.

This chart shows how a pyramid scheme (also known as a Ponzi scheme) is impossible to substain.

Bernard Madoff, the king of Ponzi, sits in jail for the next 150 years, or at least until he dies, whichever comes first. In the meantime, Irving Picard, the court appointed trustee, also known as the liquidator, is searching for the billions of dollars that disappeared.

Where did the money go?  Madoff sent out statements to his “investors” that the fund was worth 64.8 billion dollars. According to Mr. Picard’s chief counsel David Sheehan, the statement was total lies.  The statement of 64.8 billion dollars was an illusion to keep investors investing.

According to CBS 60 Minutes:

“Asked how much real money went into the whole scheme, Sheehan told Safer, “I’d say about $36 billion. And about 18 of it went out before the collapse. And 18 of it is just missing. And that $18 billion is what we’re trying to get back.”

So for the past nine months, Picard and his team have been on a global treasure hunt. The first step: liquidating Madoff’s boats, his art, even his season tickets to the New York Mets, plus Bernie’s various homes, all sold or about to be sold with a U.S. Marshal as real estate pitchman.

“They didn’t exactly hide their wealth, did they?” Safer asked.

“They did have the house in Palm Beach. They had a place in Montauk. They had to have, you know, an apartment here on Park Avenue in the city – all of which are the accoutrements of great wealth. But it wasn’t an extraordinary lifestyle,” Sheehan said.

According to the government, those homes, boats, art and more are worth over $50 million.

That’s just a drop in an oversized bucket, nothing close to what investors lost. So Picard and his team continue to follow the money.

They started at Madoff’s New York offices, now an impressive landscape of emptiness.

And close by, perhaps a work of art that sums up the entire story: “It was called the ‘Soft Screw.’ And it was about four, I guess four to six feet high. And it was sitting right here,” Picard explained, describing a screw-like sculpture that used to be displayed in Madoff’s office.

And sitting on top of the world was Madoff himself. “He was much like the Wizard of Oz, just hiding behind this wall. And no one could quite penetrate it but they sort of really liked the results,” Sheehan said”

It looks like the “soft screw” turned out to be a total reaming.

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