Madoff Drama’s Last Act Begins

It is always droll when the world lives down to your worst expectations. Most amazing is how surprised people seem to be when the obvious takes place. Teen star in DUI arrest goes to rehab. Female pop star behaves like a tart. Male pop star behaves like a thug. Sports star tests positive for…

I could go on, but you get the drift. The latest non-surprise surprise is actually gratifying. Irving Picard, the attack dog charged with clawing back Bernie Madoff’s ill-gotten gains, has so far recovered $9.62 billion of an estimated $17.5 billion from Madoff, his co-conspirators and his bankers. Not bad.

Picard has also obtained convictions of many of those employed by Madoff in keeping the elaborate Ponzi scheme going for years. But so far there has been one glaring exception, Madoff ‘s two sons, even though they too were employed by the family business, have dodged the bullet.

Now Picard has filed suit against Andrew Madoff, the estate of Mark Madoff who committed suicide two years after his father’s arrest, and Mark’s widow. Picard seeks $153.3 million.

Did anyone really believe the boys, who were as close to the inside of the racket as possible and obviously profited handsomely from the scam, were unwitting? That’s what they claimed. As did Madoff who took sole responsibility when the jig was up, presumably to keep the boys from being sucked down the tubes with him.

But Madoff lied for a living, making him an unreliable witness to the facts of the criminal conspiracy. It has also been claimed that the boys couldn’t be culpable since they helped blow the whistle on the old man. But if the family conspirators sought to limit the damage, wouldn’t that have been a smart move? Madoff was already toast, so why not let the boys pretend to turn on him in order to get them off the hook? One last con, for old time’s sake.

The game appears to be up, however, So far, Picard has shown that almost everyone involved in the Madoff firm was a well-paid participant. Apparently he has now gotten several people, presumably insiders, to rat out the boys. One may well be the most recently convicted villain, accountant Paul Konigsberg. His indictment names Mark and Andrew as co-conspirators.

Sources say Picard has also obtained statements showing a dormant account in the name of the boys suddenly showed a magic balance from an unknown source of $17.7 million and Picard has traced a $6.8 million home loan, allegedly from their mother, back to its actual source in the fraud. Ruth Madoff was apparently acting as a money laundress. Boys steal from sun to sun, but mother’s work is never done.

Deleted e-mails have also been recovered that show Andrew telling his late brother in 2005 that the since-convicted back office director had assured him that “everything is in balance, so we don’t need to worry. I love my job.” Many chefs do too, and all they are cooking is dinner, not the books. Yes, few joys can equal conning people undetected for years and living like an oil sheik on the proceeds. One can only hope Andrew will enjoy his new job as much, making license plates for the state, and that Mark’s widow looks good in orange.

Some have complained that Picard has been lavishly compensated and too slow both in prying loose the stolen money and convicting the perpetrators, but I think he has been relentless and pretty darned effective.

He’s like a Javert whose on the side of the angels chasing not a man who stole a loaf of bread but a family that stole the future from hundreds of poor, gullible saps who believed a story too good to be true. If Picard winds up his symphony of comeuppance with the conviction of the boys, it will be a fine finale and well worthy the wait.

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