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Bernard Madoff Insists: I'm Really Not Such a Bad Guy

Bernard Madoff, whose Ponzi scheme swallowed up billions of dollars, feels history may not judge him as harshly as many believe.
By Yaakov Levi
First Publish: 3/23/2014, 12:49 PM

Peter Madoff arrives at Federal Court in New York
Peter Madoff arrives at Federal Court in New York
Reuters

In one of the few interviews he has given since being sent to prison for fraud, where he will remain for the rest of his life, Madoff said that he had been doing a lot of thinking, and that he believed his intentions and actions had been misunderstood.

“I don’t believe I’m a bad person,” Madoff said in the interview with the Politico web site.

“Everybody thinks the worst of me. The only thing I’m happy about is I was able to help people recover … There’s nothing for me to change from. It’s not like I ever considered myself a bad person. I made a horrible mistake and I’m sorry,” Madoff said of his admitted Ponzi scheme, which netted the former SEC chairman a 150 year sentence in Federal prison.

The fact that prison rules prevent him fro handling money, he said, was probably a good thing.

Madoff was arrested in 2008 for running the Ponzi scheme, which entailed taking investments from thousands of individuals and institutions, promising them high rates of returns, and using the money to fund his own ventures. Investors who wanted to cash out were paid from the money invested by new clients. The amount missing from client accounts, including fabricated gains, was almost $65 billion.The court-appointed trustee estimated actual losses to investors of $18 billion.

Madoff was well-known in the Jewish community, and many of his clients – and subsequently those who lost large sums of money – were Jewish. But he does not feel he betrayed the Jewish community any more than he betrayed others, he said.

“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.”

With that, he said, “I don’t feel any worse for a Jewish person than I do for a Catholic person,” he said. “Religion had nothing to do with it.”

In the end, Madoff said, he will be judged by his overall record – which he said was not as bad as the media made out.

“I did a lot of good for people. I made huge sums of money for some people,” he said. “It wasn’t just for money. I already had huge amounts of money. It wasn’t to buy yachts or homes. I had that from the beginning from legitimate money I made,” he said, adding “there’s nothing to repent for. I already knew what I did was wrong.”