(JTA) – Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff said in a prison interview that he does not feel he “betrayed the Jews.”
Madoff, 70, is serving a 150-year sentence at the medium-security federal prison in Butner, N.C., for a scheme believed to be the largest of its kind in U.S. history — one that affected a disproportionate number of Jewish individuals and organizations.
“Religion had nothing to do with it,” Madoff told Politico in an interview published Thursday.
“I don’t feel that I betrayed the Jews, I betrayed people. I betrayed people that put trust in me — certainly the Jewish community. I’ve made more money for Jewish people and charities than I’ve lost.”
Madoff told Politico that he attempted to recover money for his victims, and it has largely gone unacknowledged.
He said the information he shared with Irving Picard, the trustee charged with overseeing the recovery and distribution of money lost in the Ponzi scheme, has been critical to Picard’s ability to collect the money.
“Everybody thinks the worst of me,” Madoff said. “The only thing I’m happy about is I was able to help people recover.”
The investment advice he offers is not to invest in the stock market.
Madoff, who sees a prison psychiatrist once a week, said he has “nothing to repent for. I already knew what I did was wrong.”
He also said, “I don’t believe I’m a bad person.”
Madoff said the loss of his family, who have had nearly nothing to do with him since the scheme became public, is “more punishment than being incarcerated.” His son Mark committed suicide in December 2010 at 46.
He said he suffers from kidney disease and not cancer, as has been reported, and takes about 14 medications, which he did not do before entering prison. Madoff had a heart attack over the winter; a stent was inserted to open a blocked artery.