Bernie Madoff victims included billionaires, celebrities and retirees

‘He stole from the rich. He stole from the poor. He stole from the in between’: Bernie Madoff victims in $65B Ponzi scheme included billionaires, celebrities, lawmakers and even retirees who lost their entire life savings

  • Bernie Madoff robbed 37,000 victims in 136 countries over the course of two decades before he was arrested back in 2008
  • His victims, large and small, included individuals, charities, pension funds and hedge funds 
  • Among those he betrayed were actors Kevin Bacon and John Malkovich;  director Steven Spielberg and New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon
  • Some victims, including those who could barely afford to invest in the first place, lost their entire life savings and several later committed suicide as a result 

Bernie Madoff had no limits on the types of people he ripped off in his $65 billion Ponzi scheme with celebrities, billionaires, charities and even retirees all falling victim to his epic securities swindle. 

Madoff, who died on Wednesday while serving a 150-year prison sentence, robbed 37,000 victims in 136 countries over two decades before he was arrested back in 2008. 

His victims, large and small, included individuals, charities, pension funds and hedge funds.

Among those he betrayed were actors Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick and John Malkovich; baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax; director Steven Spielberg and New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon.

Bernie Madoff, who died on Wednesday while serving a 150-year prison sentence, robbed 37,000 victims in 136 countries over two decades before he was arrested back in 2008

Some victims, including those who could barely afford to invest in the first place, lost their entire life savings and several later committed suicide as a result. 

Many of his victims came from the Jewish community where Madoff had been a major philanthropist. 

Among them was Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel whose foundation lost $15.2 million. 

‘We thought he was God. We trusted everything in his hands,’ Wiesel said in 2009.

His higher-profile victims included Kevin Bacon and wife Kyra Sedgwick; actor John Malkovich and TV host Larry King who all lost an undisclosed amount of money in their dealings with Madoff.

Bacon said at the time that he and his actress wife had lost ‘a lot of money’.  

Steven Spielberg’s Wunderkinder Foundation was also among the victims but the exact loss is not known. 

Actor John Malkovich lost $2.23 million after investing with Madoff. 

The owners of the New York Mets, who were longtime Madoff clients, struggled for years to field a good baseball team because of losses they suffered. 

Several lawmakers were also caught up, including New Jersey Senator Loretta Weinberg, who had her life savings of $1.3 million wiped out. 


He attracted a devoted legion of investment clients from Florida retirees to the rich and famous including director Steven Spielberg (right), actor Kevin Bacon (left) and former New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon

Actor John Malkovich lost $2.23 million after investing with Madoff


Several lawmakers were also caught up, including New Jersey Senator Loretta Weinberg, who had her life savings of $1.3 million wiped out. The late Senator Frank Lautenberg’s charity invested nearly $12.8 million with Madoff

The late Senator Frank Lautenberg’s charity invested nearly $12.8 million with Madoff.

At least two hedge fund managers who invested their clients’ money with Madoff ended up committing suicide.

New York hedge fund executive Charles Murphy, whose fund lost $50 million in Madoff’s scheme, jumped from the 24th floor of the Sofitel New York Hotel in 2017. 

French financier Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet killed himself in Manhattan in 2008 after losing more than $1 billion in the Ponzi scheme. 

Among the everyday individuals who invested with Madoff was New Yorker Sharon Lissauer who lost everything when she handed over her inheritance from her mother. 

Connecticut retiree Miriam Siegman, who was among those to speak at Madoff’s sentencing, said she had been discarded like ‘road kill’ by the financier. 

She said at the time that she was forced to live on food stamps as a result. 

Many of Madoff’s victims were in court to see him sentenced to 150 years in prison. They applauded as he was led off in handcuffs. 

‘He stole from the rich. He stole from the poor. He stole from the in between. He had no values,’ former investor Tom Fitzmaurice told the judge at the sentencing. 

Among them was Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel whose foundation lost $15.2 million. ‘We thought he was God. We trusted everything in his hands,’ Wiesel said in 2009 


New York hedge fund executive Charles Murphy, whose fund lost $50 million in Madoff’s scheme, jumped from the 24th floor of the Sofitel New York Hotel in 2017. French financier Rene-Thierry Magon de la Villehuchet killed himself in Manhattan in 2008 after losing more than $1 billion in the Ponzi scheme

Actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, who died in 2016, and her husband Frederic Prinz lost about $10 million


Billionaire investor Ira Rennert (left) is said to have lost $200 million. Norman Braman (right), a former Philadephia Eagles owner, said he lost an ‘undetermined’ amount in the scheme.

‘He cheated his victims out of their money so he and his wife… could live a life of luxury beyond belief.’ 

After sentencing, a judge issued a forfeiture order stripping Madoff of all his personal property, including real estate, investments and $80 million in assets his wife, Ruth, had claimed were hers.  

Over the years, court-appointed trustees laboring to unwind the scheme have recovered more than $14 billion of an estimated $17.5 billion investors put into Madoff’s business.  

The trustees were appointed to recover funds from Madoff’s scheme – sometimes by suing hedge funds and other large investors who came out ahead – and divvying up those proceeds to victims. 

The effort is still ongoing and to date has returned around 70 percent of lost funds to investors. 

More than 15,400 claims against Madoff were filed. 

According to the Madoff Victim Fund, more than $3 billion has been paid out to victims so far. 

The Department of Justice said in December that it had begun paying out approximately $488 million to help individuals, schools, charities, pension plans and other recoup their losses.

The government fund is managed by former US Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Richard Breeden and comes mainly from settlements with Madoff’s former bank JPMorgan Chase & Co and the estate of former Madoff investor Jeffry Picower.   

Connecticut retiree Miriam Siegman (above after Madoff was found guilty), who was among those to speak at Madoff’s sentencing, said she had been discarded like ‘road kill’ by the financier. She said at the time that she was forced to live on food stamps as a result

Among the everyday individuals who invested with Madoff was New Yorker Sharon Lissauer who lost everything when she handed over her inheritance from her mother. She is pictured leaving court the day Madoff was jailed

TIMELINE: Key dates in Bernie Madoff’s arrest over Ponzi scheme

Dec. 11, 2008: Madoff is arrested, after confessing to his sons that the asset management side of his firm, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, was a giant Ponzi scheme that prosecutors have estimated was as high as $64.8 billion.

December 2008: A trustee, Irving Picard, is appointed to liquidate Madoff’s firm and recoup money for former customers, who he estimates lost $17.5 billion. Picard files more than 1,000 lawsuits against accused enablers, and against people he says withdrew more money from Madoff’s firm than they put in.

March 2009: Madoff pleads guilty to 11 felony charges including securities fraud, wire fraud, money laundering and perjury, and is jailed. He had been free on $10 million bond.

June 2009: Madoff is sentenced to 150 years in prison and ordered to forfeit $170.8 billion, representing proceeds of and property in his crimes. The sentencing judge, Denny Chin, calls Madoff’s crimes ‘extraordinarily evil.’ Madoff’s wife Ruth, who was not accused of wrongdoing, is given $2.5 million.

July 2009: Madoff arrives at the federal prison in Butner, North Carolina, where he will spend the rest of his life.

September 2009: The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s inspector general faults the agency for missing numerous ‘red flags’ of Madoff’s fraud.

December 2010: Madoff’s eldest son Mark Madoff, 46, commits suicide in his Manhattan apartment. Madoff’s only other child, Andrew Madoff, dies in September 2014 of cancer at age 48.

December 2010: Picard sues JPMorgan Chase & Co, Madoff’s main bank, for $6.4 billion, saying it enabled Madoff’s fraud.

January 2011: A bankruptcy judge approves a $7.2 billion settlement with the estate of Florida investor and former Madoff friend Jeffry Picower, the largest single recovery obtained for Madoff’s victims. The estate provides $5 billion for Picard to distribute, and forfeits $2.2 billion to the U.S. government.

October 2011: Picard begins payouts to former Madoff customers with an initial $312 million distribution.

November 2013: The U.S. government sets up a $2.35 billion Madoff Victim Fund, which is funded mainly with money from the Picower settlement. Former SEC Chairman Richard Breeden is appointed to oversee the fund.

January 2014: JPMorgan agrees to pay $2.6 billion to settle with Picard and the U.S. government. Some of this money goes to the Madoff Victim Fund, which grows to $4.05 billion.

November 2014: Picard’s recoveries surpass $10 billion.

June 2015: The U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear Picard’s appeal from a lower court’s refusal to let him try to recoup more than $4 billion from some Madoff customers.

June 2017: The estates of Mark and Andrew Madoff and related defendants reach $23 million of settlements with Picard.

November 2017: The Madoff Victim Fund begins payouts.

February 2020: Madoff asks for compassionate release from prison. His lawyer says Madoff suffers from terminal kidney failure and other ailments and has fewer than 18 months to live.

June 2021: Judge Chin denies compassionate release.

April 2021: Picard has reached more than $14.4 billion of settlements, and paid out more than $13.5 billion on 2,654 allowed claims. The Madoff Victim Fund has paid out almost $3.2 billion to more than 36,800 individuals and entities.

April 14, 2021: Madoff dies.

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