For sale: Madoff's intimate treasures
Friday 12 November 2010
So arch-fraudster Bernard Madoff had a copy of Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. The notorious perpetrator of history's largest pyramid scheme had Al Franken's book on his shelf when the FBI finally closed in. He had numerous other appropriate volumes, with titles such as Chutzpah, In the Shadow of the Law, and End in Tears.
The reading collection is going under the hammer along with pretty much everything else that Madoff and his wife, Ruth, owned, as part of the US authorities' efforts to wring every possible cent of compensation for the schemer's devastated victims.
And it really is every last thing, right down to the contents of the couple's underwear drawers, with Mrs Madoff's tights and Bernie's boxer shorts among the 486 lots.
An auctioneer was waving Madoff's monogrammed underpants around at a special preview of Saturday's auction, in a final humiliation for a man who was once a power-broker on Wall Street.
His 14,000 investors had been told for decades that their money was safe and growing, but it was neither of those things. His claim to have $65bn in their accounts was a fiction, since he had merely been using new investors' money to pay old investors who cashed out.
Just $1.5bn has been recovered for victims to share. The forthcoming auction is forecast to raise just $1.5m more.
A Steinway piano and Madoff's prized collection of Rolex watches are the most expensive items up for sale, along with his wife's jewellery.One 10.5-carat diamond ring is estimated at $300,000 to $350,000.
Smaller, homelier trinkets have been grouped together, with common kitchen utensils thrown together with a personalised coffee mug given to Ruth Madoff for Mother's Day.
"He loved shoes and spent a lot of money on 250 pairs, some never worn," said auctioneer Bob Sheehan, who will conduct the sale. The footwear includes a pair of monogrammed slippers.
And among the lots are more designer jackets and monogrammed polo shirts than any couple could reasonably need, the remains of an ostentatious lifestyle funded by fraud.
The sale will be the last in New York of his belongings. A third and final auction is to be held in Florida to sell off items from a Palm Beach home that sold for more than $5.5m. His Manhattan penthouse was sold for $8m.
Madoff's world collapsed him when he was arrested in December 2008. The former financier, now aged 72, admitted the fraud charges, and is serving 150 years in prison.
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