The day in December 2008 when FBI agents put Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff in cuffs will be remembered for generations — and not just by the people who lost everything.
The numbers were staggering. A whopping $19 billion, all gone, stolen from more than 40,000 investors — the New York Mets, Larry King, Kevin Bacon, hospitals, colleges, pension funds — over more than two decades.
Now, a new Netflix docuseries tells the rest of the story. According to Joe Berlinger, director of the four-part “Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street,” out Wednesday, Madoff had also been managing “a significant chunk” of money for international organized crime,
That’s why the New York native, who died in jail in 2021 at the age of 82, was so willing to take the rap, as well as the 150-year prison sentence that followed, Berlinger said. Madoff felt no remorse — his guilty plea was just one last selfish act. He was trying to stay alive.
“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 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.”
In fact, during unearthed video depositions, Madoff — who was rumored for years to have ties with Russian crime syndicates and who famously befriended Colombo family boss Carmine John Persico, Jr. while in prison— states that there were potential deals from the federal government on the table at the time of his trial.
“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 deposition. “The belief was that I couldn’t be doing this all by myself, that there had to be other people involved.”
In addition to potential Mafia ties, the new series also looks at Madoff’s right hand man, Frank DiPascali. The fellow New Yorker was a “trusted lieutenant for all his evil misdeeds,” Berlinger said.
In tandem with Madoff, DiPascali — who first joined the team in 1975 and died in 2015 at age 58 while awaiting sentencing on multiple financial felonies in 2015 —created false returns and investments which, even for the savviest (or luckiest) traders, yielded profits which were unimaginable.
“There was one simple fact that Bernie Madoff knew, that I knew, and that other people knew, but we never told the clients nor did we tell the regulators like the SEC,” DiPascali admits in a deposition. “No purchases or sales of securities were actually taking place in their accounts. It was all fake, it was all fictitious.”
Once considered a Wall Street titan, Madoff advised the Securities and Exchange Commission after the 1987 market crash and was instrumental in the formation of NASDAQ – an exchange he chaired in the 1990s.
But from the start of his career, Madoff was living a double life, with the respectable Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, LLC occupying the 19th floor of Midtown Manhattan’s Lipstick building at 885 Third Avenue, two floors above where Madoff’s historic heist was being orchestrated by an unlikely cast of characters.
“The 17th floor [was] full of people plucked from high school for the most part – or people who would not have this kind of an opportunity to make this kind of money – who Bernie felt he could control and manipulate,” said Berlinger, an Academy Award nominee who also produced “Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich.” The documentarian added that the claustrophobic space was a maze of dot matrix printers, filing boxes and fraudulent financial documents.
Ultimately, Madoff’s downfall was brought on by the infamous housing market collapse of 2008, which annihilated the stock market and caused investors to abruptly pull their money out from the fund.
“If it wasn’t for this one black swan event of the mortgage meltdown that caused the financial crisis, literally a once in a century event,” Berlinger said. “Had that not happened? I think this would have gone on for decades.”
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