Bernie Madoff and his wife Ruth lived a privileged life. Apartments on Manhattan’s tony Upper East Side, a 55.5 foot luxury yacht named “Bull”, two private planes on call, a $9 million mansion in Palm Beach, Florida, memberships at exclusive country clubs, millions of dollars worth of expensive jewelry and $3 million beachfront property on Long Island.
Then, suddenly, everything changed for the former investment manager of Ascot partners. The downturn in the national economy and the crisis in stock market had a lot of businesses and families wanting to pull out their money they had invested with Madoff. The truth was, as many of his clients would soon find out, there wasn’t any money. Bernie Madoff and his multi-billion dollar portfolio was all a lie.
Unless you have been living under a rock, I am sure the name Bernie Madoff strikes a chord with you. He was recently sentenced to 150 years in jail for running a $50 billion ponzi scheme that wiped out the fortunes of some of nation’s wealthiest families, forced lots of hedge funds to liquidate their holdings and sent the stock of companies that invested with him into a tailspin. While he was out on bail pending his trial, authorities discovered that Madoff had mailed almost $1 million of precious jewelry to his family members from his $7 million Manhattan apartment on Christmas Eve.
Authorities say 16 watches, including a diamond-encrusted timepieces from Cartier and Tiffany, an emerald ring, four diamond brooches and two sets of cufflinks were mailed to his family in violation of a court order. When the news of the jewel transfer broke, it sent a wave of outrage among Madoff’s victims and the public. Madoff’s attorneys tell a different story of a broken man and his wife sending some sentimental personal items to their loved ones. They say it was an honest mistake. In a written statement, his attorneys wrote “Mr. Maddoff gathered a number of watches that he had collected over the course of years, knowing that, due to the sudden change in his circumstances; he would never have an occasion to wear these watches again.”
There’s another side to this sordid tale of greed and deception. What about the people that lost everything? It’s ironic that as Madoff prepares to go to prison indefinitely he is mailing his sentimental jewelry to his family, while his ex-clients are being forced to sell theirs. In New York, a jewelry-buying firm called CIRCA says they have been getting an influx of ex-Madoff clients who need to unload their jewelry. The firm’s C.E.O, Chris Del Gatto, says he had a client in Beverly Hills who mailed in a nine-carat diamond to sell just so she could pay her expenses. The same goes for their Palm Beach office, where the company’s director Tracy Sherman says she has been visiting the homes of Madoff victims. Sherman says some of the people have their precious jewelry all laid out on a table, each with a story behind it, contemplating how much they can get for them. She says the jewels aren’t the only thing for sale, so are some of the victim’s homes.
Bernie Madoff is a name that some may remember as a swindler, a cheat, a genius and a thief. Others may remember this case because of the astonishing amount of jewelry and property that had to be sold by the nation’s elite.