NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — In his first in-depth interview with a major media outlet since his arrest in December 2008, convicted financier Bernard Madoff reversed his previous position and asserted some banks and hedge fund were “complicit” in his massive Ponzi scheme that wiped out billions.
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Madoff told the New York Times the banks and hedge funds he dealt with over years employed a “willful blindness” over his regulatory filings and other information that could’ve been used to spot the scheme. Madoff said he’s said as much to Irving Picard, the trustee currently trying to recover assets for Madoff’s victims.
“They had to know. But the attitude was sort of, ‘If you’re doing something wrong, we don’t want to know,'” Madoff said.
In a separate e-mail reported by the Times, Madoff wrote “I am saying that the banks and funds were complicit in one form or another and my information to Picard when he was here established this.”
Madoff declined to be more specific. In fact, in an e-mail obtained by the Times, Madoff wrote “I refused to help [prosecutors] with criminal evidence.”
Madoff suggested that numerous out-of-court settlements made by various banks and funds were essentially hush money “to keep me quiet” about their role in establishing the Ponzi scheme’s success – and who some of the top beneficiaries were.
One Brooklyn resident said she believes Madoff was still trying to struggling with his crimes. “I think he’s just basically trying to, sitting in his cell, trying to put it all together. And probably thinking, ‘You know? This wasn’t just my fault’,” said Billie Colombo.READ MORE: Suffolk County Police Officer In Critical Condition After Being Stabbed By Suspect Following Crash
Madoff is currently serving a 150-year sentence in a North Carolina federal prison. The Times interviewer described the 72-year-old former billionaire as frail and skinny. He lives with a roommate in a 12 x12 foot cell, which is about the size of one of the closets he shared with his wife on the Upper East Side.
That limited, narrow view of the world and his strictly-controlled environment haven’t hampered Madoff’s ability to follow his own case. He said New York Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz – named in one of the trustee’s many lawsuits – were not in or aware of the scheme.
“They knew nothing. They knew nothing,” he said.
Both men have been put under pressure to sell part of the team because of the lawsuits, but the team’s Chief Operating Officer Jeff Wilpon said they will not sell a majority stake.
“I feel really bad for our family and bad for my dad and my uncle because this is just unfounded criticism on them,” Wilpon told reporters Wednesday.
Of other clients who lost millions, “I would have loved for them to not lose anything, but that was a risk they were well aware of by investing in the market,” he reportedly wrote in an e-mail.
Ilene Kent, whose parents lost money with Madoff and were among many investors being sued by a trustee for the recovery of lost assets, said this central issue she agrees with him.
“It speaks to what’s going on Wall Street and the sentiment on Wall Street where there’s this little cabal where we all know, we’re doing this, we’re doing that, and nobody says anything,” she said.MORE NEWS: 12-Year-Old Shot In Brooklyn Remains Hospitalized, Police Searching For Gunman