NEW YORK (CBS 2) — The world is hearing the voice of Wall Street swindler Bernie Madoff for the first time since he went to prison. In a recent interview, Madoff defended himself and showed little pity for the victims of his Ponzi scheme.
Madoff said he didn’t need the billions his scheme brought in because he was already a successful businessman with a penthouse apartment, beach house, and yachts.
“If you think that I did this, I woke up one morning and said ‘well listen I want to be able to buy a boat, a plane and this is what I’m going to do,’ that’s wrong,” Madoff said in a telephone interview with New York Magazine.
Yet, it sounded as though Madoff was still shirking responsibility for the pain he caused his victims, insisting the ponzi scheme wasn’t for his benefit but for theirs. He claimed he did it all for his clients, who should have known returns so much higher than the Wall Street averages had to be fishy.
“Most my clients, the individual clients, all are not net losers. I made a lot of money for them,” Madoff said.
Illene Kent said her parents lost their life savings with Madoff. She said she took special exception to the disgraced financier’s comments.
“My stomach turns. I just don’t know what’s going to come out of his mouth. If his lips are moving. he’s probably lying,” Kent told CBS 2’s Lou Young.
Judith Welling and DeWitt Baker were two others who invested money with Madoff and ended up losing their savings.
“There were a lot of people that didn’t take out everything they put in. They had kept it as an investment account really compounding over the years, paying the taxes,” DeWitt Baker told CBS 2’s Don Dahler.
Madoff also repeated earlier claims that banks and fund managers knew the numbers weren’t adding up, but wanted to do business with him anyway.
“You say to yourself, these banks that wouldn’t give you the time of day, some of them all of a sudden, are willing to give you a billion dollars,” he said.
The court-appointed trustee trying to recover money on behalf of the victims has filed a lawsuit against Madoff’s primary banker, JP Morgan Chase, alleging the bank suspected something was wrong for years, but did nothing about it.
Madoff admitted it was an emotional moment when he finally came clean to his family.
“I explained to them, you know, what…the deal was, that I owe all this money out… and I’m not going to be able to recover it and so on and so forth,” Madoff said. “They were like…everybody was like stunned. I was crying.”
Madoff told the interviewer he tried to close out accounts and give money back to his clients when it became obvious the scheme was collapsing, but he said they refused to let him because they were getting such large returns on their investments.
One of his two sons, Mark, eventually committed suicide. Madoff said he cried for weeks, and his wife, Ruth, still hasn’t forgiven him for the damage he did to their family.
“How can she not be angry at me? She tried not to be…it’s hard not to be. I destroyed our family,” Madoff said.
Madoff is currently serving a 150-year prison sentence in North Carolina after pleading guilty in 2009 to fraud charges.