Madoff’s victims want his accomplices charged

The master fraudster may have been sentenced to 150 years in prison this week. But victims of Bernard Madoff’s $65-billion Ponzi scheme are becoming increasingly impatient for prosecution of the corrupt financier’s family, friends, colleagues and advisers.

The subject of the greatest popular vitriol is Madoff’s wife, Ruth, who still lives in the couple’s $7-million penthouse on New York’s Upper East Side.

Although she has not been charged, she regularly visits her husband in jail and has refused repeatedly to express any public sympathy for his victims.

Ruth Madoff has been banned from her neighbourhood hair salon and a favourite Italian restaurant. United States officials have seized her seaside retreat in Palm Beach, Florida, and she is expected to lose the Manhattan penthouse. Earlier this year she was also forced to hand over a chateau on the French Riviera and several yachts that were registered in her name, as well as millions of dollars in cash and investments.

Trailed by tabloid photographers on the New York subway recently, she snapped: “Are you having fun embarrassing me and ruining my life?”

So far, Madoff has steadfastly refused to point the finger at anybody surrounding him. But few believe the 71-year-old financier could have spent two decades pulling off Wall Street’s biggest scam without cooperation from others in the offices of Madoff Securities on the 17th floor of Manhattan’s so-called Lipstick building.

Eleanor Squillari, Madoff’s former secretary, said recently she believed he was withholding information from the authorities to protect accomplices.

Jeff Zwerling, a New York lawyer representing Madoff clients, said: “It strains credulity to believe this man could have perpetrated this fraud single-handedly for so many years. The sheer volume of paperwork involved alone would render that practically impossible.”

Last week the US Securities and Exchange Commission filed civil charges of securities fraud against four individuals and a Madoff-linked investment advisory firm, Cohmad Securities. All are accused of recruiting clients to Madoff’s fund while “knowing or recklessly disregarding” facts indicating that Madoff was a crook.

Meanwhile, criminal charges are outstanding against David Friehling, owner of a one-man accountancy firm based in a roadside shopping centre in suburban New York which supposedly audited the books of Madoff’s global fund management empire. Britain’s Serious Fraud Office is investigating the London end of Madoff’s firm.

But to the frustration of those who lost money, a painstaking investigation into Madoff’s relatives has yet to yield much. The fraudster’s brother, Peter, who served as chief compliance officer at Madoff’s firm, has had most of his assets frozen by regulators. But he was given a living allowance of $10 000 a month after his lawyer complained he had insufficient cash to buy himself medicine, food or “even a cup of coffee”.

Madoff’s sons, Andrew and Peter, have dissociated themselves from their father despite holding senior roles at Madoff Securities. Neither is on speaking terms with Madoff. The younger of the two, Andrew, recently got into a street brawl in Manhattan with a former colleague who accused him of involvement in the fraud.

Fury towards Madoff and his family remains raw. At least two suicides have been linked to the scandal. Thierry de la Villehuchet, a French hedge fund manager, slit his wrists in December, leaving a note blaming Madoff-related losses. In a recent television interview Villehuchet’s wife accused the fraudster of “murder” over her husband’s death.

There is a lingering suspicion among many victims that Madoff has money stashed away somewhere. Bradley Simon, a New York lawyer specialising in white-collar crime, said: “They want him to spend the rest of his life in jail but they also want him to ‘fess up so they can get some of their money back.” —

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories


Subscribers only

How lottery execs received dubious payments through a private company

The National Lottery Commission is being investigated by the SIU for alleged corruption and maladministration, including suspicious payments made to senior NLC employees between 2016 and 2017

Pandemic hobbles learners’ futures

South African schools have yet to open for the 2021 academic year and experts are sounding the alarm over lost learning time, especially in the crucial grades one and 12

More top stories

Egypt, Seychelles get first jabs

The two countries have rolled out China’s Sinopharm vaccine, but data issues are likely to keep some countries from doing the same

Fashion’s future is bricks and clicks

Lockdown forced reluctant South African clothing retail stores online: although foot traffic in brick-and-mortar stores remains important in a mall culture like ours, the secret to success is innovation

What the Biden presidency may mean for Africa

The new US administration has an interest and much expertise in Africa. But given the scale of the priorities the administration faces, Africa must not expect to feature too prominently

Zuma, Zondo play the waiting game

The former president says he will talk once the courts have ruled, but the head of the state capture inquiry appears resigned to letting the clock run out as the commission's deadline nears

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…