17th floor – Bernie Madoff

Bernie Madoff perpetrated the biggest Ponzi scheme of all time. He stole 65 billion dollars from investors. The definition of “Ponzi” is basically taking money from party to pay another party. He ran this scheme for 30+ years. Investors would place their money with Bernie to invest for them in stocks and bonds. He quoted a return that was roughly double what everyone else was quoting. The problem is he never bought or sold one stock or one bond. He would take the money from new investors to pay previous investors. This went on for 30 years.

He started out running an honest business but along around 1970, he started his “hedge” fund where the Ponzi started. The SEC regulators never questioned it over all those years because he was so well known, he had to be honest, right? Madoff would create fake portfolio and stock accounts and send a report to every investor every month that showed how much money they had and how much return they received that month. The investors were ecstatic because they were making so much money. Madoff was giving the best returns on Wall Street and new investors wanted to put piles of new money with Madoff. No one ever though to double check.

His offices were in one of the ritziest buildings in New York and it was posh with people everywhere working in beautiful offices and a fake trading floor with the stock ticker tape running across the wall. To say the least. It was very impressive. So impressive, no one, not even the SEC regulators thought to question him.

Two floors below the ritz and glamor was the 17th floor. This was where wealth went to vanish. On the 17th floor there were no computers hooked to the internet and they had dot matrix printers where they would print out the fake account ledgers that were sent to the investors. Internally, all the money was tracked with handwritten notes that no one could trace.

It was late 2008 after Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns went bankrupt and here was old Bernie still making money for his investors. A guy by the name of Harry Markopolos said, “hey, wait a minute.” And that was what started the investigation into Bernie Madoff that ended everything.

Every swindler, liar and crook has a 17th floor in their life. Most are smarter than to have it in the same building, but not ole Bernie. He spent as much time on the dark 17th floor as he did in the main offices.

Bernie lost everything and thousands of families and investors also lost everything. His oldest son committed suicide, his younger son died in 2014, his sister and her husband who invested everything with Bernie also committed suicide. His wife today is 81 and in a senior living home with no friends, no family and waiting to die disgracefully. Bernie Madoff true to his name, “made-off” with the money.

My point – crime does not pay long term. It may for a period, but it doesn’t last long. Do what is right. You may not have wealth, but you will have a life full of joy and peace in your heart when you lay your head down at night. KT

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