Looking back at Bernie Madoff's fraud scheme five years on

Five years ago, financier Bernie Madoff was arrested for running an elaborate, global Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors of billions of dollars and left many of his thousands of victims with nothing. Madoff is currently serving a 150-year sentence in prison. Judy Woodruff reports on efforts to recoup some of the losses.


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JUDY WOODRUFF: Now: What's happened to the people who invested their life's savings with disgraced financier Bernie Madoff?

Today is the fifth anniversary of his arrest for fraudulently operating a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme.

Five years ago, the world's media followed disgraced Wall Street financier Bernie Madoff wherever he went in New York, from the courthouse to his Park Avenue apartment. Madoff's fall from financial grace came hard and fast.

In 2009, he pleaded guilty to running an elaborate global Ponzi scheme, defrauding investors of $64 billion in paper wealth and $17 billion in actual cash. The victims numbered in the thousands and many were left with nothing.

MICHAEL DE VITA, Bernie Madoff Investor: This is a man who stole $65 billion. Nobody else has ever come close to $65 billion in theft. He has absolutely no remorse. You take a look at the people who have committed suicide as a result of this. Well, there's physical suicide, and there's emotional suicide. None of us will ever be made whole, ever.

JUDY WOODRUFF: About $9 billion has been recouped so far by Irving Picard, the court-appointed trustee charged with recovering the lost assets. He's suing a number of defendants, including J.P. Morgan Chase, claiming they should have known about the fraud.

For decades, Madoff lived a lavish lifestyle and worked to deceive investors and the Securities and Exchange Commission, as heard in this 2005 phone call released later by investigators.

BERNIE MADOFF: Obviously, first of all, this conversation never took place, OK? Look, you never know what they're going to ask, because these guys, it's a fishing expedition. That's what they do.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Madoff has claimed he acted alone, but a separate fraud trial began this fall in New York for five former employees. They include his secretary, investment operations director and computer programmers.

Madoff himself is serving a 150-year sentence at a medium-security prison in North Carolina, which he recently said was very laid-back and kind of like camp.