- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) - By all accounts, Bernard Madoff isn’t talking. And his wife, his sons, his brother and other key employees have lawyered up.

That means it could be a while before anyone else is arrested and the full extent of Madoff’ vast swindle comes to light.

Given the size of the paper trail _ a $65 billion scam, 5,000 victims and monthly statements going back nearly two decades _ experts say it could be six months to a year before charges are bought against any accomplices.

The day after Madoff was thrown behind bars, investigators returned Friday to the arduous task of piecing together one of the largest frauds in history _ and trying to determine if anyone else was involved.

The FBI has refused to discuss the status of the investigation. But experts say it’s certain Madoff’s closest relatives and associates are high on authorities’ list of people who may have known what was going on.

Madoff pleaded guilty Thursday to 11 charges, including fraud, perjury and money laundering. He faces a maximum sentence of 150 years in prison, and the judge immediately jailed him _ a decision his lawyers asked an appeals court to reverse on Friday.

Any potential suspects “are not better or worse off than they were before the plea,” said Christopher Clark, a former federal prosecutor in Manhattan.

Also Friday, newly filed court documents showed Madoff and his wife had a combined net worth of more than $823 million at the end of last year, including a $7 million yacht and four properties worth a total of $22 million. Last month, a court-appointed trustee overseeing the liquidation of Madoff’s firm reported that about $1 billion in assets had been recovered from the business.

Part of the delay in charging any accomplices may be a lack of cooperation from key employees.

Among those under scrutiny is Madoff’s wife, Ruth, who withdrew $15.5 million from a Madoff-related brokerage firm in the weeks before Madoff’s Dec. 11 arrest, including a $10 million withdrawal on Dec. 10.

Passing references to Ruth Madoff during her husband’s guilty plea Thursday drew laughter from a mocking audience of investors still bristling over a disclosure several weeks ago that she wants to keep $69 million in assets, including the couple’s $7 million Manhattan penthouse.

In addition, she faces potential civil litigation as a result of the collapse of her husband’s financial empire. Her lawyer has declined to comment.

Also on investigators’ radar is Madoff’s 63-year-old brother, Peter, who was instrumental in building Madoff’s investment firm.

In the days following his brother’s arrest, Peter Madoff helped regulators examine the company’s books, his lawyer said at the time.

But the brother resigned about a week later and, like the rest of the family, has never spoken publicly about the case.

Madoff sons Andrew, 42, and Mark, 45, also worked for their father in a trading operation he has insisted was legitimate and separate from his fraudulent investment advisory service.

The sons, who shared their father’s extravagant lifestyle, also have denied any wrongdoing through their attorney. The lawyer has called them victims of the scheme and claimed they had “no access to overall financial information about their father’s firm.”

Besides the family, investors have questioned the role of Frank DiPascali, chief financial officer of Madoff’s money management business.

A lawyer for DiPascali declined to comment on Friday. Those for the brother and sons did not immediately return telephone messages.

So far, federal authorities are believed to have spoken to several clerks who handled some of the voluminous paperwork Madoff admits he fabricated, including tens of thousands of fake account statements.

During his plea, the defendant claimed he started the scheme as a short-term way to withstand the early-1990s recession _ a timetable at odds with what authorities have alleged, that the giant Ponzi scheme began at least as early as the 1980s.

On Thursday, Madoff took all the blame for his fraud and tried to create a wall between himself and his family, telling the court his “other businesses” _ proprietary trading and market making _ were “legitimate, profitable and successful in all respects.”

He then added: “Those businesses were managed by my brother and two sons.”


AP’s News Research Center contributed to this report.

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