Just before a Saturday auction, South Floridians got a glimpse into how the nation’s largest convicted Ponzi schemer, Bernard Madoff, was able to crack into high finance -- and society -- with his expensive tastes, smooth ways and dapper clothes.
The U.S. Marshals Service opened for public viewing all of Madoff’s ill-gotten possessions that were seized from his Palm Beach mansion after he was charged with his $65 billion Ponzi scheme. They will be auctioned Saturday at the Miami Beach Convention Center, 1901 Convention Center Dr., beginning 10 a.m.
Online bidding is now going on at www.txauction.com –the Texas-based auctioneering firm of Gaston & Sheehan is overseeing the operation.
Madoff is currently serving 150 years in federal prison.
Even at his multi-million-dollar “vacation” home in Palm Beach, Madoff was a dandy who possessed seven custom-made Hermes sports jackets and four Ralph Lauren ones. His 13 suits or tuxedos were also custom-made. And he kept 30 belts, 50 pairs of pants and a 1952 Rolex watch.
He especially liked shoes. Just at his Palm Beach home, Madoff kept 79 pairs. He had 37 pairs of Belgian-brand, high-end custom loafers, size nine, as well as 42 other pairs of golf, dress and house shoes. In contrast, his wife Ruth had only 11 pairs of shoes and sandals, size seven, seized at their waterfront home.
Madoff’s casual yet urbane look helped him move effortlessly in South Florida’s high society and charitable circles – where he met some of his victims who entrusted him with tens of millions of dollars.
That dapper persona extended into his South Florida home that was furnished with tasteful antiques, English furniture, antiquarian books and art. An 18th Century equestrian painting by British artist John Wootton – is believed to be worth at least $140,000.
Madoff also collected botanical prints, antique wood fishing lures, golf clubs from the 1930s and even a vintage military telescope.
Expensive burnished mahogany appeared to be Madoff’s favorite wood. His 19th Century George IV mahogany dining table is estimated to be worth from $9,000 to $12,000. He also had a mahogany bed, cabinet, wardrobe, desk, trunk, library table and bookshelves.
Madoff’s smaller stuff is just as ornate: He liked his cigars stocked in alligaor cases. He had a Tiffany silver picture frame inscribed with “bull.” In fact, bulls were one of his favorite motifs – he possessed several bull sculptures.
But once he was caught and then confessed in 2008, his possessions were seized at his homes, including his Palm Beach manse.
It is important to show that crime does not pay, said John O’Malley, a U.S. Marshals Service spokesman in South Florida.
“That’s always been a primary component -- to take the incentive out by seizing the ill-gotten gains of the criminals,’’ O’Malley said.
Even family members have to give up things. Madoff’s wife Ruth had to surrender her 10.5-carat diamond engagement ring that fetched $550,000 at a November auction inNew York.
The Miami Beach auction will now sell his South Florida things.
“It’s all going to be gone,’’ O’Malley said.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun