BROOKLYN, N.Y. – When U.S. Marshal Jennifer Crane visited convicted financier Bernard Madoff’s co-op in East Midtown more than a year ago, there wasn’t much out of the ordinary for the 4,000 square-foot, 7-bedroom, 12th-floor penthouse.
“I expected walking into something a little more palatial, but it was like an everyday home,” said Crane, who works for the Asset Forfeiture Division and still remembers exactly where every vase, candlestick and statue went. “It was like walking into my grandparents—my grandparents with a lot of money.”
The man behind the biggest Ponzi scheme in history was already in federal custody, and wife Ruth Madoff was still living there. But that home is now gone—sold for $8 million. As is Madoff’s $9.41 million Montauk beach house and his West Palm $5.65 million home.
Now the U.S. Marshals Office is getting rid of the rest of Madoff’s personal property in an auction Saturday at the New York Sheraton Hotel and Towers. Everything from his collection of jewelry, watches, bull statues, and personally labeled clothing will be sold in an effort to compensate the victims, Madoff’s investors, who lost upwards of $65 billion.
Bernie Madoff's labeled slippers. (Credit: Nathan Frandino)
“We’ve had one goal and one priority in mind and that’s restitution toward the victims and we will continue with that goal in mind until every item is sold,” said Roland Ubaldo, supervisory deputy of the U.S. Marshals in New York.
The U.S. Marshals set up more than 400 pieces of personal property, jewelry and antiques that were seized from the homes in connection with the prosecution of Madoff.
The items vary in price range, but Ubaldo said they aim to sell everything at market price or above in order to give back the most money to the victims.
One of the most prominent items is the 10.5-caret diamond ring, said Bob Sheehan of Gaston & Sheehan, the company responsible for auctioning off the property.
The custom ring with an emerald cut diamond is valued between $300,000 and $350,000, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.
What is also impressive, Sheehan said, is the Steinway Grand Piano, which the Madoffs kept in their greeting room overlooking their panoramic view of Manhattan.
“It’s the Cadillac of pianos,” said Sheehan, who added that it was estimated up to $16,000.
Among other items were a pair of black velvet slippers with red lining and his initials “BLM” embroidered in gold, two Ralph Lauren Polo belts with one sterling silver buckle and one gold-filled buckle—both engraved with “BLM,” and matching Nike Storm Fit black and red jumpsuits. The small suit had “Ruth Madoff” written on the tag and the XL suit had “BLM Madoff” written on the tag.
“He certainly liked to mark what he owned and his initials BLM or his company initials BLMIS or her initials RM. You’ll find it on most of the assets,” Crane said.
Madoff pleaded guilty in March 2009 to four counts of fraud, three counts of money laundering, making false statements, perjury, making false filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and theft from an employee benefit plan, according to the United States Attorney General’s office.
Madoff is now serving a 150-year term in federal prison in Butner, N.C.
As the auction approaches, the Marshals hope to surpass the first auction, which raised $1 million for the victims—only a smidgen of the damage Madoff did.
“Do I think the amount of proceeds gained would equal what was taken? Absolutely not,” Crane said. “We certainly can’t make up for all the crimes that were perpetrated against the victims, but we can try our best.”