Twenty-five years, $50 billion and a $10 million bail. In 25 years Bernard Madoff managed to create a Ponzi scheme of $50 billion, only to get off on a $10 million bail to live in his penthouse as he awaits his trial that he will likely delay for several years before he manages to hide all the money he made and pass it off to family and friends. Even after the FBI caught him mailing off envelopes of jewelry valuing over a million dollars, the judge still failed to revoke bail because the state “had not proven beyond a preponderance of evidence that Bernard Madoff could cause harm to the people around him or that he was a flight risk.” Not cause harm to the people around him? Madoff managed to bankrupt several major Jewish charities, short people as much as a billion dollars, and even lead a man who lost everything to commit suicide in France. The “Chanukah present” jewelry he sent out so it could not be confiscated was worth millions. Millions that could go to repay those who have lost their fortunes or restart charities that have failed. This scandal has shown us what a joke our criminal justice system is, and how it ignores the big guy while hitting hard on small crime.
So what exactly did Madoff do? To keep it simple, he went to Peter, John and Mary and said I’ll invest your money. He sent them fake reports, telling them they all made 11 to 15 percent profit on what he invested. John had an economic problem, and needed to divest his funds. Madoff then used the money Peter paid him to pay off John, plus a little of Mary’s money too. John was more than satisfied, and went to Joe, Mike and Bill and told them about his profits. They all gave their money to Madoff, who kept most of the money to himself and kept reserves if anyone divested their funds, continuing to send out false profit reports, even during economic turmoil. In the end, Madoff walked off with $50 billion. The Securities and Exchange Commission paid no attention to the fact that Madoff was reporting profit even during recessions, and to tipsters who noticed something wrong with Madoff. It was not until his own sons turned him in this December did we find out the largest investment firm was a hoax. Madoff’s total “investments” were $50 billion.
So what did a judge do to this man who stole $2.1 billion from Jewish charities, $100 million from Yeshiva University, and $3.1 billion from Oppenheimer Funds? Bernard Madoff was given bail of $10 million and is currently under house arrest in his penthouse suite in New York City worth $7 million. Even after being caught sending a million dollars worth of his assets in envelopes to family members, a judge decided he was not a “flight risk or harm to those around him” and therefore can continue living in his suite. If convicted, all of Madoff’s assets would be forfeited to those he stole from, insofar they have valued his assets at 1 billon dollars. Also, should he be convicted, the maximum he can receive in jail is 20 years in prison, with a $5 million fine.
And that is where the joke lies. Sure Madoff is 70, and would die in prison, but the maximum he could receive is 20 years for stealing $50 billion? Let’s say there’s a crack dealer who had already spent a minimum of five years in jail for selling crack. If he was one day high and decided to bring half an ounce of cocaine to a school and sell it to a student, under federal law he would have a mandatory minimum sentence of 16 years, a total of 21 years for the possession and sale of crack in his lifetime.
The crack dealer with half an ounce of cocaine valuing $500 gets a minimum of 16 years, but Madoff gets a maximum of 20 for the largest Ponzi scheme in history. Justice is served.