HBO have released the new trailer for their long-awaiting TV movie The Wizard of Lies starring Robert De Niro as Bernie Madoff. Considered “the film nobody dared to make” the release date has been set for May this year.
Directed by Barry Levinson (Rain Man, Good Morning, Vietnam) and also starring Michelle Phieffer as Ruth Madoff, the film will document the takedown of Madoff’s empire after it was revealed he stole $20 billion in principal funds that were invested with him through a Ponzi scheme.
The New York Times reporter Diana B. Henriques, who wrote the book The Wizard of Lies: Bernie Madoff And The Death Of Trust, told Deadline that when it comes to Ponzi schemes, there is a tendency to blame victims, she cautioned “all of us trust people in our lives and only someone you trust can truly betray you.”
Bernie Madoff and the 150-year prison sentence
Madoff (born in Queens, New York, 1938) was a former stockbroker, investment advisor, financier and notorious fraudster. His unbeatable haul of $65 billion was collected over decades and almost brought down the global financial system. The now 78-year-old stole from investors, drained his employees’ retirement funds and bankrupted charities. No-one suspected a thing because he had a nice-guy reputation, and was regarded as a pillar of the investment community.
Nobody really knows exactly when Madoff began stealing – not even Madoff himself. During an interview with CNN Money, he claimed it started in 1987, then in another interview, he put the year down as 1992. Although others reported that it was when he first started working on Wall Street in the 1960s. Frank DiPascali, Jr., Madoff’s former account manager, testified in court that the scheme had gone on “for as long as I remember” and he started working at the firm in 1975.
Madoff revealed he could have been caught back in 2003 during an investigation but, apparently, the detectives did not ask “the right questions”. Eventually, someone did the math and realized there was no way his numbers would add up and people started wondering how he was making so much money.
Destruction, Debt, and Death
The only people who benefited financially from the teardown of Madoff were the lawyers who were assigned to clean up the mess – they pocketed just over $800 million in legal fees.
All Madoff’s stolen assets needed to be tracked down and redistributed to the victims. This became a huge international operation which required outsourcing to other law firms. Since Madoff’s arrest in 2008, his attorneys have received a payout of around $823 million.
Many of Madoff’s victims never fully recovered what they were owed – with an estimated 11,000 victims still unpaid. Celebrities including John Malkovich claimed to have lost millions to the corrupt tycoon.
On the second anniversary of Madoff’s arrest, his son Mark (pictured above) was found dead at his Manhattan apartment in an apparent suicide. According to a report by the NYPD, Mark was found by his father-in-law, his body hanging from a ceiling pipe as his 2-year-old son was sleeping in another room.
Martin Flumenbaum, an attorney representing Mark and his brother Andrew said, “Mark was an innocent victim of his father’s monstrous crime who succumbed to two years of unrelenting pressure from false accusations and innuendo.”
Life Behind Bars
Aged 78-years-old, Madoff now earns $40 a month behind bars through wiping phones and computers for a few hours a day. He then fills the rest of his time reading newspapers and novels.
According to letters sent to his daughter-in-law, he is treated “like a mafia don”. “I can’t walk anywhere without someone shouting their greetings and encouragement…it’s much safer here than walking the streets of New York”.
Madoff told CNN Money that he wakes early every morning at 4.30am as he can’t sleep due to the haunting guilt surrounding his son’s death. “I was responsible for my son Mark’s death and that’s very, very difficult,” he said. “I live with that.”