Surprised Madoff wasn’t caught earlier

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IN FIRST INTERVIEW BEHIND BARS, MADOFF SAYS HE’S …
Surprised he wasn’t caught earlier
THEY got me this time.
31 July 2009

THEY got me this time.

That was what Wall Street crook Bernard Madoff thought each time he met the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on business.

He said he was surprised he was not caught sooner for his role in the US$65billion ($94 billion) fraud.

It is the biggest in Wall Street history and Madoff, 71, was sentenced to 150 years in prison.

He gave his first interview since his incarceration yesterday to a pair of lawyers who are suing him on behalf of investors.

The San Francisco lawyers, Mr Joseph Cotchett and Ms Nancy Fineman, met Madoff at the North Carolina prison where he was taken two weeks ago after pleading guilty, AP and ABC News reported.

‘There were several times that I met with the SEC and thought, ‘They got me,’ Madoff told Cotchett and Fineman.

The commission is now conducting an in-depth review of how they missed the fraud and drawing intense criticism.

The results of their investigation are expected to be released in weeks, reported Reuters.

Mr Cotchett and Ms Fineman represent about a dozen investors who lost money in Madoff’s decades-long scheme, an unprecedented global scam for which Madoff eventually pleaded guilty to laundering, securities fraud and perjury.

‘It was an extraordinary visit. He was very candid, very open, and answered every one of our questions,’ Mr Cotchett said of the 41/2-hour meeting.

He was ‘very remorseful’ but looked healthy and appeared to be working out, he said.

‘I think he’s not too happy to be where he is, but he’s certainly not complaining,’ said Mr Cotchett, who set up the interview through Madoff’s lawyers.

By the time Madoff was arrested in December, only several hundred million dollars remained in the accounts of his private investment business.

Madoff and his wife have relinquished more than US$100 million in assets, and authorities have identified more than US$1 billion in assets that can be distributed to victims, many of them elderly and living in the New York and Florida.

A lawyer for Madoff was in the room as the lawyers asked questions designed to learn if there were new avenues to pursue money to compensate his victims.

Mr Cotchett said Madoff did not believe there was money that was unaccounted for or had not been discovered by investigators, reported AP.

Still, Mr Cotchett said he believed otherwise.

‘It might be in many different venues, and by that, I mean I don’t think that Bernie knows where all the money is because money was paid out to feeders,’ he said.

Mr Cotchett said he expected to add to his lawsuit some defendants who worked for those feeder funds that sent clients to Madoff.

He said his interview left him thinking that many people were negligent in the Madoff fraud, including the government’s watchdog agencies.

The SEC has said no evidence of wrongdoing by its staff has surfaced in connection with its failure to investigate credible claims about Madoff.

But the top cop at the SEC resigned after receiving an angry dressing-down before Congress over the agency’s failure to detect the massive fraud scheme.

Lawsuit

The visiting lawyers said they planned to use what they learned at the meeting in a lawsuit to be filed this week in Manhattan against Madoff and his brother, Peter Madoff, who acted as chief compliance officer, and potentially officers at some of the feeder funds who worked with Madoff, according to the reports.

Madoff agreed to speak with Mr Cotchett after the lawyer threatened to sue his wife, Ruth, ABC News reported.

‘He cares about Ruth,’ Mr Cotchett said.

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