Bernard “Bernie” Madoff, the most extraordinary swindler of the heady pre-recession years, was arrested six years ago on Thursday, but the distrust that his dealings directed toward the financial system is indelible. Many people know a friend, relative or school acquaintance whose college savings or retirement fund was pillaged by Madoff’s gargantuan Ponzi scheme. The Occupy movement, the Heartland’s vitriolic anger towards bankers, and the proverbial Main Street-Wall Street divide are all linked to the mess Madoff sank himself into. His loss of $65 billion in Americans’ savings rattled what little confidence many Americans still had in Wall Street and the finance industry.
The well-known director Michael Moore wrote a commentary on the scammer for TIME in the Spring of 2009, shortly before Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison. Moore proclaimed him the incorrigible tip of the iceberg:
Moore’s is a sentiment that still rings true years after the depth of the financial crisis: Where is the retribution?
In fact, Madoff’s circle of friends and family bore much of it. Ruth Madoff, disgraced after her husband’s fall, endured a series of public shamings in the year after Bernie’s sentencing, including being stripped of $80 million in assets. She cut off contact with her husband and moved to son Andrew’s house in Connecticut. Madoff’s eldest son, Mark Madoff, committed suicide in 2010, and his younger son, Andrew, died this year of lymphoma. Madoff’s long time assistant, 66-year-old Annette Bongiorno, was sentenced just this week to a six-year prison term, and Jerome O’Hara, a computer programmer for Madoff, was sentenced to two-and-a-half years. Brother Peter Madoff is serving a 10-year sentence in federal prison and forfeited all his personal assets.
Madoff himself has shown a measure of remorse, though it’s not likely to be enough for the people whose savings disappeared. He told Politico earlier this year that he has not changed: “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.”
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