Madoff behind bars, but probe grinds forward
NEW YORK — Bernard Madoff, even as he faces the prospect of dying behind bars for his epic swindle, has never wavered on one point: He acted alone.
Federal investigators haven’t budged either: They don’t believe him.
The day after Madoff was given a 150-year term, a person close to the investigation said Tuesday the sentencing marked “the end of the beginning” of a far-reaching investigation expected to answer lingering questions about how the disgraced financier pulled off perhaps the largest financial fraud history — and who helped him.
The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, told The Associated Press on Monday that prosecutors expect to charge at least 10 more people in connection with the scheme. The person said Tuesday that no arrests were imminent.
The U.S. attorney’s office refused to comment on the status of the investigation or potential suspects.
Defense attorney Ira Sorkin said Tuesday that Madoff likely would be transferred from a federal jail in Manhattan to an unspecified prison in the next month. His client, he added, was “resigned to his fate.”
Madoff, 71, pleaded guilty in March to charges that his secretive investment advisory business was a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme that wiped out thousands of investors and ruined charities.
Madoff admitted his own crimes, but has claimed members of his inner circle — including a brother and two sons who ran a brokerage operation under the same roof as his firm — were innocent bystanders. Lawyers for the family have vehemently denied any wrongdoing.
“How do you excuse deceiving 200 employees who have spent most of their working life working for me?” Madoff said at sentencing. “How do you excuse lying to your brother and two sons who spent their whole adult life helping to build a successful and respectful business?”
Ruth Madoff broke her silence Monday to suggest she was among the victims of Madoff’s deceit. Her husband, she said in a statement, “stunned us all with his confession and is responsible for this terrible situation in which so many now find themselves.”
But in the six months since the former Nasdaq chairman’s arrest, the family has not escaped intense scrutiny by federal authorities and a court-appointed trustee overseeing liquidation of Madoff’s assets. A judge’s forfeiture order has stripped Ruth Madoff of $80 million in assets, including a penthouse apartment where she still lives.
Besides the family, there have been questions about the role of Frank DiPascali, chief financial officer of Madoff’s money management business, and that of several large money managers who funneled billions of dollars of investments to the firm. The trustee, Irving Picard, has filed lawsuits against the managers, accusing them of being Madoff cronies who either knew, or should have known, about the fraud.
Former prosecutors said Madoff’s sentencing wasn’t a grand finale.
“Once the primary wrongdoer has been sentenced, it typically is a fact that will take the wind out of the sails of an investigation,” said William Devaney, a former federal prosecutor now in private practice. “However, this is an atypical investigation.”
Another former federal prosecutor, Christopher J. Steskal, said that heedlessly benefiting from the fraud wasn’t enough to bring a criminal case against a potential suspect. Investigators need convincing proof that the person had criminal intent and participated in the scheme. It’s likely authorities are cultivating cooperators to provide that proof, he said.
“If you’re under investigation, you have two options: You either dig a foxhole and hide in it, or you conclude that you have no option except to try to earn points by cooperating,” said Steskal, who’s now in private practice in San Francisco.
The list of possible cooperators include DiPascali, who reportedly has given investigators evidence against the so-called feeder fund managers. Also, an accountant charged as the only other defendant so far has signaled in court papers that he wants to negotiate a plea deal. Their attorneys have declined to comment.
Federal authorities also have spoken to several clerks who handled some of the voluminous paperwork Madoff admits he fabricated, including tens of thousands of fake account statements.
One of Madoff’s burned clients, Phyllis Feiner of Great Neck, N.Y., said Tuesday that she looks forward to more arrests.
“I would like to see everybody else who was involved in this evil scheme to be brought to justice,” she said. “There’s absolutely no way he could have done this all by himself.”
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