He pleaded guilty to running the largest Ponzi scheme in history, so if you’re keen to watch Netflix’s new true crime series The Monster of Wallstreet, you might be wondering where is Bernie Madoff now after he defrauded investors out of tens of billions of dollars.
Born in 1938 and brought up in a modest home in Queens, NY, Madoff elbowed his way into the Manhattan elite circles to become a figure once regarded as a titan of Wall Street. He was the former chairman of the NASDAQ stock exchange as well the chairman of his own company, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, which grew to be the sixth-largest market maker in S&P 500 stocks after its establishment in 1960.
He’s also largely responsible for computerized trading—an industry that Google, Microsoft and Apple are a part of today. Regarded as a “great innovator”, according to Monster of Wallstreet director Joe Berlinger per The Guardian, as well as an “evil genius”, Madoff was sentenced to 150 years behind bars after pleading guilty to 11 federal felonies. But was he actually remorseful or was he once again choosing himself in a final act of selfishness?Where is Bernie Madoff now?
Where is Bernie Madoff now? The disgraced financier died behind bars in Butner, North Carolina, at the age of 82 on April 14, 2021. According to a death certificate obtained by TMZ at the time, his cause of death was revealed to be hypertension, atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and chronic kidney disease. His manner of death was listed as natural given his advanced age. His body was cremated.
What did Bernie Madoff do? Over the course of 17 years, maybe even longer, the head of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities lived a luxurious lifestyle while keeping clients happy with consistent returns on their investment portfolios. Simultaneously, he and his wife Ruth and their children lived the high life, owning luxury apartments in Manhattan, an $11m estate in Palm Beach, a $4m home at the tip of Long Island, a property in the south of France as well as enjoying private jets and yachts. Those investor returns turned out to be a total sham; the money from some investors was used to pay profits to other people.
On December 11, 2008, Bernie Madoff was arrested by the FBI after federal investigators were tipped off by his sons Mark and Andrew. According to documents filed by the FBI at the time of Madoff’s arrest, Madoff had actually told his sons that all the family’s wealth and success were based on a lie—a huge Ponzi scheme that was crumbling under the pressure of the 2008 financial crisis. Mark and Andrew immediately consulted with a lawyer and were advised they had to report their father’s confession to the authorities. The very next day, Madoff was arrested in his Manhattan penthouse and charged with securities fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, perjury and money laundering.
“Of course, greed was some element but I don’t think he was blinded by greed. He’s a poor kid from Queens who longingly looked over the river towards Manhattan, wanted to be a big player and just loved being the guy, being successful,” explained Berlinger to The Guardian. “One of the reasons the Ponzi continued and got ramped up on steroids is his legitimate business was starting to fail and so he used that Ponzi money to shore up his legitimate business because he wanted to be Mr Wall Street. Ego and a sense of belonging to the big club of rich fellas that run the world. It was less about greed and more about status and position.”
Madoff pleaded guilty to 11 felony charges on March 12, 2009. A few months later, he was sentenced to 150 years behind bars. According to Berlinger, the reason Madoff pleaded guilty to stealing $19 billion from more than 40,000 investors was not that he was remorseful but because he had also been managing a “significant chunk” of cash for organized crime and he was desperate to protect himself.
During his sentencing hearing, Madoff apologized to his victims, saying: “I have left a legacy of shame, as some of my victims have pointed out, to my family and my grandchildren. This was something I will live in for the rest of my life. I’m sorry. I know that doesn’t help you.”
But Berlinger doesn’t buy it. “People feel like one of the reasons he was so willing to immediately acknowledge his guilt, say it was all him, and go to jail wasn’t an act of courage,” Berlinger told The New York Post. “Instead of trying to obfuscate or find a legal way out or to delay [a verdict], I do think part of that was self-protection to avoid a mob hit.”
Indeed, in one never-before-seen deposition featured in Berlinger’s documentary, Madoff said there were potential deals from the federal government on the table at the time of his trial, as he’d been rumored to have ties with Russian crime syndicates for years. “The prosecutor wanted me to plea-bargain with them to make some sort of a deal by providing information as to who else was involved with this fraud,” Madoff said during one such deposition. “The belief was that I couldn’t be doing this all by myself, that there had to be other people involved.”
By the same brain that brought us other true crime series like Conversations with a Killer, Crime Scene and Brother’s Keeper, Madoff: The Monster of Wallstreet features interviews with whistleblowers, former employees, victims and investigators over four hour-long episodes.
One interview subject described Madoff as “a financial sociopath, a serial financial killer” and Berlinger agrees. “At the end of the day, he’s a financial serial killer and the reason I say that is serial killers don’t have empathy,” he said in an interview with The Guardian. “There’s no way you can look a widow in the eye at the Palm Beach Country Club and assure them that their life savings will be fine, give me your funds, I’ll take care of you, and then do that to people. He’s somebody who lacks empathy; therefore can’t be remorseful.”
Those betrayed by Madoff included celebrities like Kevin Bacon, who lost “most of” his money to the scheme. “We had most of our money in Madoff,” Bacon told Smartless podcast hosts Jason Bateman, Sean Hayes and Will Arnett in October 2022. “There’s obvious life lessons there – if something is too good to be true, it’s too good to be true.”
Other famous names ripped off by Madoff include New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon, former Philadelphia Eagles owner Norman Braman, Hungarian-born actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, Dreamworks Animation chief executive Jefferey Katzenberg, actor John Malkovich, Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, and broadcaster Larry King. The Madoff Victim Fund has returned more than $4 billion to more than 40,000 victims impacted by the scheme, according to its website.
Mark Madoff sadly took his own life in 2010 on the second anniversary of his father’s arrest. He had been sued a week prior by Irving H. Picard, who had initially sued him last year seeking to recover approximately $200 million that the family had received in salaries. Martin Flumenbaum, Mark Madoff’s lawyer, said in a statement. “This is a terrible and unnecessary tragedy,” adding that his client was “an innocent victim of his father’s monstrous crime who succumbed to two years of unrelenting pressure from false accusations and innuendo.”
In 2014, the disgraced financier’s other son, Andrew Madoff, passed away at age 48 after receiving treatment for mantle-cell lymphoma, an aggressive form of cancer. In an interview with the New York Times, he’d once referred to his father’s scheme as “a father-son betrayal of biblical proportions.”
Madoff: The Monster of Wallstreet is available to stream on Netflix now.