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Where's the rest of the Madoff money?

Disgraced Wall Street financier Bernard Madoff arrives at a U.S. Federal Court in New York.

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Kai Ryssdal: We knew going in that Bernie Madoff was going to plead guilty today. His attorney said as much earlier this week. Still, even though he's behind bars, the case isn't over by a longshot. Marketplace's Bob Moon reports there's still that matter of the missing $50 billion.


BOB MOON: Investigators could start by asking, who got rich? Certainly Madoff did. But are there still billions hidden somewhere?

MITCHELL ZUCKOFF: We're not sure yet. A true forensic accounting needs to be done.

Boston University Professor Mitchell Zuckoff is the author of "Ponzi's Scheme: The True Story of a Financial Legend."

ZUCKOFF: If the receiver right now has accounted for about a billion dollars, that doesn't rule out the possibility that there are secret accounts elsewhere if we really were talking about $60 billion or, the number the government has put on this, $170 billion.

Investigators reportedly are looking into bank accounts held by Madoff's wife. And attorney Jerry Reisman says Madoff's sons got rich working for their father -- whether or not they knew about his fraud.

JERRY REISMAN: But for those criminal acts, they would not have made this money.

Reisman represents 14 clients who lost a combined $150 million. He concedes it's likely little is left, since Ponzi schemes work by taking money from later investors and paying it to earlier investors. Indeed, Reisman is preparing to defend some clients who were paid off by Madoff and now have to worry about so-called "clawback" lawsuits.

REISMAN: Many of them did receive tremendous amounts of payments over the years. In fact, we have clients who received more money than they actually lost.

But tracking that money also won't be easy for the court-appointed receiver handling the case. So says investment attorney Tom Ajamie.

TOM AJAMIE: Madoff's records are a complete mess, and probably not to be believed, since he's an admitted scam artist.

In the end, legal experts say the total real money actually invested in the scheme is likely to be considerably less than Madoff's own inflated accounting.

I'm Bob Moon for Marketplace.

About the author

Bob Moon is Marketplace’s senior business correspondent, based in Los Angeles.
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Where is the money. I think many politicians in New York & DC are on the payroll of Madoff. It is better for all involved to forget and keep this case quite and out of the media. Lot of ugly things are going to come out. Why is the media not doing their job ?

Simple and easy to understand. The money has gone to the Madoff's children, grandchildren, others that are not neccessarily on his will.

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