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Madoff’s middleman

The Boston Globe has a lengthy profile on Robert Jaffe, the Palm Beach based recruiter for Bernard Madoff, who wittingly or not roped dozens of investors into a scheme that would lose them hundreds of millions of dollars.

It is a maddening and fascinating piece that paints Jaffe as a clothes-horse who drove a vintage MG and was his country club’s golf champion, who may or may not have known what  Madoff was really up to.

PALM BEACH, Fla. – Even in the rarefied world of high society in Palm Beach, Robert M. Jaffe cut quite the figure. With his impeccably coiffed hair, a golf game to envy, and a $17 million waterfront mansion, he was a man to be seen.

He was also the man to see, if you wanted in on a sure thing – Bernard L. Madoff’s investment fund.

Jaffe moved among the rich and richer in Palm Beach and Boston, finding suitable clients, among the many who clamored to get a piece of Madoff’s irresistible, too-good-to-be-true investment returns.

But now the 64-year-old Newton native finds himself at the center of one of the biggest scandals to rock the financial world, which has wiped out billions of dollars from an A-list of the powerful and famous, as well as his closest friends, family – and himself.

But part of Madoff’s allure was his exclusivity. He enlisted several middlemen, such as Jaffe, who focused on recruiting clients with a high net worth. Investors and potential investors say that Madoff at times made it difficult to get in, often requiring connections and an investment of more than $1 million.

Jaffe provided those connections. Although his primary residence is in Palm Beach, he also has a home in Weston and is a member of the Pine Brook Country Club. A large number of the 360 members of the Weston club had investments with Madoff, according to members and employees. Jaffe played as recently as this fall on Weston’s rolling fairways, where he was known as generous tipper.

But Jaffe seemed to some who dealt with him to have had only superficial knowledge of Madoff’s approach. One Boston investor, who asked for anonymity because he does not want his losses publicized, said Jaffe routinely asked him for copies of his monthly statements from Madoff, because the statements were not sent to Jaffe directly. After his statements continued to report steady returns, even during periods of decline in the stock market, the investor said he and a financial adviser met with Jaffe in his office to ask about Madoff’s strategy.

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