Those who see Bernard Madoff as the personification of greed and excess might be disappointed by his beach house: It's not that palatial.
At 3,014 square feet, the home is cottage-size by superrich standards. Its furnishings look as old as Madoff's decades-long fraud. There's no garage. Not even a walk-in closet.
But the 1.2-acre lot sits closer to the surf than larger neighbouring homes on the southeastern tip of Long Island. And the house features a grand, columned porch with stunning views — undeniable selling points.
The US Marshals Service, which seized the property just east of the Hamptons on 1 July, puts it on the market this week to help pay back investors burned by Madoff's epic fraud.
They also plan to soon enlist brokers to find buyers for a Manhattan apartment and a Palm Beach estate once owned by the financier-turned-felon.
In estimates that federal regulators filed last year, Madoff valued his Manhattan apartment at $7m and the Florida property at $11m. He said the Montauk beach house, which he bought in 1979, was worth $3m.
Federal authorities believe the seaside property could bring closer to $8m. Whether Madoff's notoriety hurts or helps remains to be seen.
"Our goal is to place the homes on the market soon to minimize the amount of time they remain in our inventory and maximize the return to the victims," US Marshal Joseph R. Guccione said yesterday.
Madoff, 71, was sentenced in June to 150 years in prison for orchestrating a massive Ponzi scheme that spanned decades and spun a web of phantom wealth.
Thousands of investors with Madoff's once-respected advisory firm believed their securities accounts were worth tens of billions of dollars. But investigators say the totals on the clients' monthly account statements were fiction. In reality, Madoff never made investments, and instead siphoned new investors' money to pay returns to existing ones — and to fuel a life of luxury.
Madoff's punishment included a forfeiture order that stripped him and his wife, Ruth, of nearly all their wealth.
Deputy US Marshal Roland Ubaldo said furniture and any other personal belongings found inside will be sold at auction — "from pieces of art to Ruth Madoff's shoes."
The four-bedroom, three-bath beach house — which Ubaldo described as "simple, stylish and understated" — is at the bottom of a steep, lushly landscaped driveway off Old Montauk Highway.
The second-floor entrance leads to a small master bedroom with a private terrace. A staircase descends to a living room with vaulted ceilings, exposed beams and a stone fireplace.
Several sets of glass doors open onto the porch. A small swimming pool that also overlooks the Atlantic Ocean is to the left. A private path on the right winds to the beach through pine trees, rose bushes and dune grass.
The Madoffs' interior decorating taste was nautical-meets-folk art. Still on view are American Indian rugs and pottery. A sculpture of howling wolves stands outside the front door; just inside is a large wooden goat. There's a set of antique duck decoys on a hallway table and fishing poles in one corner.
The poles, along with golf clubs, an old exercise bike, outdoor wicker chairs and virtually everything else, have identification numbers — evidence of a painstaking inventory and appraisal for auction.