Menu JTA Search

NY Mag: Insider Madoff from inside the slammer

New York magazine has a fascinating story about Bernie Madoff in prison. 

The story peers at Madoff as Madoff essentially decompresses from what was 20 years of hell to him, it seems.

Madoff, the man who bilked billions and billions of dollars from his victims, now seems intensely angry at his victims – people who he viewed as greedy.

One day, Shannon Hay, a drug dealer who lived in the same unit in Butner as Madoff, asked about his crimes. “He told me his side. He took money off of people who were rich and greedy and wanted more,” says Hay, who was released in December. People, in other words, who deserved it.

Now, according to the profile by Steve Fishman, Madoff could care less about the fate of those victims.

Writes Fishman:

According to K.C. White, a bank robber and prison artist who escorted a sick friend that evening, Madoff stopped smiling and got angry. “F— my victims,” he said, loud enough for other inmates to hear. “I carried them for twenty years, and now I’m doing 150 years.”

One of the more fascinating pices of Bernie’s life behind bars: He is now BFFs with Jewish cause celebre, convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, who seems to be something of Madoff’s moral conscience:

And so prison offered Madoff a measure of relief. Even his first stop, the hellhole of Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC), where he was locked down 23 hours a day, was a kind of asylum. He no longer had to fear the knock on the door that would signal “the jig was up,” as he put it. And he no longer had to express what he didn’t feel. Bernie could be himself. Pollard’s former cellmate John Bowler recalls a conversation between Pollard and Madoff: “Bernie was telling a story about an old lady. She was bugging him for her money, so he said to her, ‘Here’s your money,’ and gave her a check. When she saw the amount she says, ‘That’s unbelievable,’ and she says, ‘Take it back.’ And urged her friends [to invest].”
Pollard thought that taking advantage of old ladies was “kind of f—ed up.”
“Well, that’s what I did,” Madoff said matter-of-factly.
“You are going to pay with God,” Pollard warned.

Along the way, Fishman captures accounts of Madoff also lashing out at hedge funders “Just marketers” and the SEC “idiots,” and it seems that Madoff is something of a celebrity in the slammer, where he is respected for the size of his con and other prisoners routinely seek business and investment advice, despite the fact that it has been years since Madoff made a real investment.

Still it also seems that Madoff is not beloved by all, as Fishman writes:

Not all prisoners are part of the Bernie Madoff fan club. “You an inmate, not a convict,” Bowler needled him, pointing out, “You got less than a year in the bucket,” meaning he’d only just arrived in prison. That he isn’t a rat—he’s tried to take all the blame for his Ponzi scheme—and isn’t a child molester counts in his favor. But Madoff isn’t seasoned or tough. “He didn’t know how to take a shower,” says Bowler, now confined in a Lexington, Kentucky, facility. (At Butner, you don’t get undressed until in the shower itself.) He has a reputation for messiness, which isn’t respectful to a cellmate. “He wasn’t prison material,” says one ex-con dismissively. Madoff seemed helpless to some. This former inmate had given himself tattoos with a device he built from a beard trimmer, a toothbrush, and a Bic pen—“A real con can jerry-rig anything,” Bowler told me.

It’s a must-read story.

NEXT STORY