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NEW YORK (Fortune) — The advisers were transfixed. Standing on the mid-Manhattan trading attic of Bernard L. Madoff Advance Antithesis in backward 2007, a half-dozen staffers stared up at the ceiling-mounted TV as CNBC aired a abode on the abstruse Palm Beach afterlife of a barrier armamentarium administrator who had been arch a bifold life. The police, it appeared, were alike because the achievability that he had been murdered. “Bernie,” addition accidentally asked as Madoff happened to airing by, “have you heard of this guy?”

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Madoff glanced at the screen, blanched, and exploded: “Why the fuck would I be captivated in some bits like that?” The advisers recoiled. “I never saw him acknowledge like that before,” says a Madoff banker who witnessed the outburst. “It acutely hit a nerve.”

Such a accident of ascendancy was awful out of appearance for the boss. But the traders didn’t apperceive at the time that Madoff had an abnormally busy additional activity activity on aloof two floors beneath them, one that was architecture adjoin an epic, and inevitable, explosion. It took a appropriate canyon to get into the “back office” on 17, breadth Madoff was administering his $65 billion Ponzi scheme. And alike if a actuality could get in, there wasn’t abundant to see: an aged IBM computer server kept in a bound room, accoutrements of trading statements, and a agents of about 20 cardboard pushers and clerks.

In retrospect, of course, there were clues, as a Fortune analysis has discovered. The IBM server, for instance, an AS/400 that anachronous from the 1980s, was so old that some abstracts had to be keyed in by hand, yet Madoff banned to alter it. The apparatus — which has been autopsied by the government — was the assumption centermost of the fraud. The accoutrements of pages of statements printed out from it showed trades that were never made.

Then there was the man who ran the floor, Frank DiPascali, Madoff’s arch abettor on 17. He was a 33-year accomplished of the firm, with a asperous Queens emphasis and a high-school education, but cipher was absolutely abiding what he did or what his appellation was. “He was like a ninja,” says a aloft banker in the accustomed operation upstairs. “Everyone knew he was a big deal, but he was like a shadow.”

There were added mysteries, as we shall see. But alike afterwards it detonated bristles months ago in a fireworks affectation of betrayal and recrimination, Madoff’s arrangement — possibly the bigger advance artifice in the nation’s history — has remained amid the hardest to penetrate. Best commonly, white-collar cases activate with a quiet, behind-the-scenes investigation, followed by a alternation of deals with inferior employees, who are awkward by prosecutors to ahem up capacity about their superiors. Footfall by step, the prosecutors move up. Assuredly comes the denouement: the ringmaster hauled into cloister in handcuffs.

But with Madoff every aspect of that acceptable anecdotal has been inverted. The case began with his flabbergasting confession, which set off the investigation. Madoff claimed he committed his crimes all by himself, but because they spanned decades and continents, a fog of suspicion anon engulfed Madoff ancestors assembly who formed at the firm, as able-bodied as advisers and business associates.

Now that fog may be about to lift. Fortune has abstruse that Frank DiPascali is aggravating to accommodate a address accord with federal prosecutors in which, in barter for a bargain sentence, he would accept his all-embracing adeptness of Madoff’s scheme. And clashing his boss, DiPascali is accommodating to name names.

According to a actuality accustomed with the matter, DiPascali has no affirmation that added Madoff ancestors assembly were participants in the fraud. However, he is able to affirm that he manipulated affected allotment on anniversary of some key Madoff investors, including Frank Avellino, who acclimated to run a alleged agriculturalist fund, Jeffry Picower, whose foundation had to aing as a aftereffect of Madoff-related losses, and others. If, for example, one of these appropriate barter had ample assets on added investments, he would acquaint DiPascali, who would assemble a accident to abate the tax bill. If true, that would beggarly these investors knew their allotment were fishy. (Lawyers for Avellino and Picower beneath to comment. Marc Mukasey, DiPascali’s attorney, says, “We apprehend and animate a absolute investigation.”)

The actualization of this abeyant ablaze attestant may able-bodied bend assumptions about the case on their heads: Some bodies broadly affected by the accessible to accept been circuitous in the artifice may not accept been, and a baby accumulation of Madoff investors who appeared to be innocent victims may not accept been absolutely innocent afterwards all. But then, few things about the activity of Bernie Madoff about-face out to be as they seem.

A business dynasty

Before it all went to pieces, Bernard L. Madoff Advance Antithesis appeared to be a charmed aing run by a bound clan. Bodies believed in Bernie. Nasdaq bogus him its chairman; the SEC appointed him to industry panels; Congress arrive him to testify. New York Senator Charles Schumer chock-full by the appointment in the countdown to the Iraq war and gave a activation allocution on the trading floor. Everywhere you looked, there were signs that Madoff — and by addendum his aing — had appropriate status. Bernie was alike able to align with his accompany the Wilpons, owners of the New York Mets, for staffers to comedy alms softball amateur on the acreage at Shea Stadium.

If Bernie was the centermost of the firm’s solar system, the aing planet was his brother Peter, the arch of acquiescence and de facto arch operating administrator for the Madoffs’ original, accustomed trading business. They were a adeptness brace with a accustomed dynamic. “They were the ultimate acceptable cop/bad cop duo,” says Christopher Keith, a aloft arch technology administrator of the New York Banal Barter who formed for the Madoffs on a ancillary activity (and who acknowledges that he clashed with them). Peter was the hands-on brother, the one captivated in detail, and best of all, the appointed boxy guy. “Peter was like bristles afar of bad road,” Keith says.

Bernie’s role was to coast in at the end and accomplish peace, says Keith, who compares him to the biblical Solomon: “He was the blazon of actuality who was array of aloft the affray — the astute man.”

Peter, now 63, was tethered to his BlackBerry. A apostle by training, he was the active force abaft the firm’s technology innovations. Admitting he couldn’t abode code, he could altercate software algorithms with hasty facility.

Bernie didn’t accept a BlackBerry. He didn’t alike use e-mail — he could about about-face his computer on. His PC was configured about aloof to accord him banking news, says Nader Ibrahim, who acclimated to assignment on the technology advice board at Madoff’s firm. “It was set up in a abode that the computer never shut off,” Ibrahim explains. “So the architecture on the screens, how his windows were set up, and aggregate like that would aloof arise up the aforementioned way. If he were to blow the banal card and commodity [unexpected] came up in advanced of his system, he would get all abashed and alarm us.”

Bernie and Peter were the aboriginal address of the dynasty. The additional was bedeviled by addition set of brothers, Bernie’s sons, Mark and Andy, now 45 and 43. Andy was the added bookish one, with a bigger compassionate of circuitous abstruse issues. But abounding beheld him as d and unapproachable, admitting those who apperceive him say a affectionate actuality is buried abaft the aloof exterior. Andy survived a bender of lymphoma a few years ago (he is now in remission), and aback he alternate to the office, he accomplished alive on the firm’s aboriginal trading operation and focused on added projects, such as the Madoffs’ attack into activity trading, a business neither the aggregation nor Bernie was circuitous in.

Mark was in allegation of the basic trading business at the time the aing collapsed. If he didn’t accept his adolescent brother’s intellect, he had the bodies abilities that apparent him as beneficiary to the Madoff throne. A frat boy, he was amenable and low-key, occasionally active his Vespa to assignment from his SoHo apartment. In his adolescent days, he would accompany his adolescent traders to the bar Scores.

There was no catechism that the Madoffs were the firm’s aristocratic family. Mark and Andy formed amid their colleagues on the trading floor, but they sat on a aloft platform, a few anxiety aloft everybody else. And alike ablaze advisers knew that they could acceleration abandoned so high.

Still, for the best allotment bodies admired alive for the Madoffs — a hasty cardinal backward for decades. Bernie’s wife, Ruth, was airy and gracious. She wrote admirable claimed addendum to employees. Bernie himself could be charming, alike compassionate. In 2002 a amateur banker was actively afflicted aback he got hit by a car while training for the New York Burghal marathon. “I anesthetized out and woke up in the emergency room,” the banker remembers. Aback he came to, he says, “I looked to one ancillary of my bed, and my mom and dad were there. On the added ancillary was Bernie.”

But Bernie was moody, and he could accomplish bodies uncomfortable. At times he would beam wordlessly into space. One aloft banker remembers actuality at a anniversary affair aback he noticed that Madoff was audacious at him from aloft the room. And glaring. And glaring. “You in trouble?” the trader’s fiance aside to him aback she noticed the boss’s icy gaze. Uncomfortable, the brace larboard early; they never got an explanation.

And Madoff could be beneath than sensitive. One day a changeable banker remarked to a aide that she’d had a daydream about actuality raped, not acumen that the bang-up was alert abaft her. Bernie piped in: “That’s not a nightmare, that’s a fantasy.”

Bernie had his quirks, and to a amazing admeasurement they atramentous the aing — absolutely absolutely aback it came to the dcor. Virtually every allotment of furniture, equipment, or adornment was atramentous or gray. That connected alike to the pushpins in employees’ cubicles. “Bernie had the architect aloof accelerate boxes of atramentous ones,” says Bob McMahon, a aloft employee.

Madoff was alike added obsessed, if that’s possible, with cleanliness. Alike while he was amenable for billions of dollars, it was not aberrant to see him blanket his appointment or the two-foot carve of a spiral abaft his desk. One staffer recalls accepting off the elevator to acquisition Madoff, clad in one of his innumerable tailored suits, on his easily and knees in the lobby, straightening the rugs so that they were accumbent perfectly.

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That was Madoff’s third fixation. Aggregate bare to be balanced and in beeline lines. Aback Madoff was in the office, all window blinds had to be accumbent at the aforementioned height, all computer screens had to be arrayed at the aforementioned bend and position, and on and on. So assertive was he on absolute alignment that, added than once, he abandoned his trousers in the appointment — amazing changeable advisers — to ensure that the band of his shirt ons was absolutely vertical. Added than one biographer has acicular out how odd it was that Madoff, a appellant of the alongside and the perpendicular, should accept alleged to abode his aing in the Lipstick Building, brash by Philip Johnson and John Burgee in the anatomy of an ellipse.

The Madoff aing had 2-1/2 floors in that building. The trading attic was on 19, and the software programmers formed on 18. Advisers in those genitalia of the aing knew there was a different, advantageous business on bisected of the 17th floor, but they didn’t apperceive absolutely what it did. “We were all acquainted of this barrier armamentarium that had had abundant allotment for 20 years,” recalls one trader. “We knew it was statistically absurd [to accept the abiding assets for which Madoff became famous]. As a collective, we consistently affectionate of wondered: How the hell does he do it? Every actuality was curious. But that’s breadth it stopped. You’d stop yourself from wondering. You’d say, There couldn’t be annihilation bad. The Madoffs had such a name — and such an aura.”

Mom, Dad and the SEC

Peter Madoff, a trustee of the Lower East Ancillary Tenement Museum, wrote a band on that institution’s website about his family’s roots: “My grandparents ran a Turkish ablution in the breadth that served as a focal point for abounding new immigrants of altered nationalities.” Census and alliance annal appearance that the Madoff grandparents came to the U.S. from Poland, Romania, and Austria amid 1900 and 1905.

Bernie, aback he rode through the breadth abounding decades later, would occasionally point out places breadth his ancestors had lived or worked. But admitting he accustomed the family’s abrasive immigrant success story, he abhorred talking about his own parents and his added burghal upbringing. Bernie and Peter Madoff were aloft in Laurelton, a accustomed breadth of Queens. Located aloft the end of the alms band on the bound of Connected Island’s Nassau County, Laurelton acquainted added like a apple in those canicule than a allotment of New York City. Families would run into anniversary added at the bounded Chinese restaurant, the ice-cream parlor, and the Laurelton Jewish Center. The Madoffs — the parents, Ralph and Sylvia; the boys, Bernie and Peter; and their earlier sister, Sondra — lived in a bashful three-bedroom brick abode with a abandoned barn on 228th Street, a broad, tree-lined artery with a blooming median.

Little is accustomed about the career of Ralph Madoff, and no affiliate of the connected Madoff association would altercate the family. Ralph gave his activity as “credit” on his alliance license, and one of Bernie’s aerial academy classmates, Ed Heiberger, recalls that he “was either a abettor or a customer’s man” (the closing is the agnate of a applicant or anniversary representative). Years afterwards he would assignment for his son Bernie’s firm. “Ralph looked like a barter driver,” adds Joe Kavanau, an old acquaintance of Bernie’s. “Kind of a band-aid affectionate of guy –not the affectionate of guy you spiral with.”

Ralph Madoff wrangled with the government on one occasion. Along with three people, he owed a tax debt of $13,245.28 (about $100,000 in today’s dollars) that acquired the IRS to abode a affirmation on the Madoff home. The taxes were adjourned in 1956, but the affirmation was not paid off until 1965 afterwards the abode was sold, suggesting that Ralph was either angry the tax bill or clumsy to pay it.

Like Ralph, Sylvia had a altercation with the government. In August 1963, the Antithesis and Barter Agency arise it was instituting affairs to actuate whether 48 broker-dealers, including “Sylvia R. Madoff [doing business as] Gibraltar Securities,” had “failed to book letters of their banking activity … and if so, whether their registrations should be revoked.” Then, in January 1964, the SEC absolved authoritative affairs adjoin a cardinal of the firms, including Madoff’s, in what appeared to be a deal: No penalties if you affiance to break out of business.

What’s abstruse is that Bernie Madoff’s adolescence accompany don’t anamnesis his mother’s actuality circuitous in stocks or bonds. For a woman to arch her own antithesis aing in the aboriginal ’60s was unusual. And accustomed that the company’s abode was listed as the Madoff home in Laurelton, Bernie’s accompany would assume acceptable to accept noticed the business. Yet they didn’t and it’s absurd to apperceive why not. One could brainstorm that Ralph, his name blah by federal tax troubles, absitively to put his wife’s name on the appliance to accessible a banal brokerage.

Either way, one of Bernie Madoff’s parents was circuitous in antithesis — and got into agitation for it. And according to his acquaintance Joe Kavanau, who abounding law academy with Madoff (before both abandoned out), Madoff knew he was activity to go into that band of assignment from a adolescent age. “Bernie,” he says, “was consistently activity to accept this business.”

‘Cash on duke $200’

Perhaps that explains why best people’s memories of the adolescent Bernie Madoff affair his extracurricular activities rather than annihilation accepting to do with academics. Best of them, for example, anamnesis his ancillary business of installing sprinkler systems, which he launched as a teenager. “He was a absolute advancing affectionate of kid that basic to get advanced in life,” says his aerial academy acquaintance Heiberger. “He was a accustomed guy who was consistently hustling.”

Madoff accomplished little acumen at Far Rockaway Aerial School. He was a lifeguard and bogus the bathe team, specializing in the erfly. But alike in this, he didn’t excel abundant to attack in abandoned contest on a accustomed basis, according to the team’s co-captain, Fletcher Eberle. Instead, Madoff swam in the aggregation relays.

The abandoned added activity that Madoff cited in his arch anniversary admission was “locker guard.” This, according to classmates, was a aberration on the role of anteroom monitor. During a added innocent time, the mid-1950s, aback fears of apprentice misbehavior centered on truancy and pranks rather than biologic use and shootings, the approaching Ponzi architect was deputized by academy authorities to anticipate horseplay in the locker area.

One connected in aerial academy was Ruth Alpern, Madoff’s sweetheart. They were a couple, says Jane Kavanau, one of Ruth’s old friends, “from aboriginal aerial school, maybe alike from aback she was in eighth grade.” Bernie was ardent by the ebullient, active babe who additionally had an accomplished arch for numbers. Every morning he would aces Ruth up at home, and they would ride the alternation calm to aerial school.

Madoff larboard home to arise college, anesthetized a abandoned division at the University of Alabama, and afresh returned, according to two sources, because he was acquisitive for Ruth.

He began commuting to what was afresh Hofstra College, 10 afar aloft the burghal band in Connected Island. His studies seemed about incidental. What mattered to him were assignment and family. The day afore Thanksgiving in 1959, he affiliated Ruth at the Laurelton Jewish Center. Two canicule afterwards he begin the time to ample out an SEC appliance to annals his own alleged broker-dealer firm. He afterwards added a “financial statement” to the application. It consisted of seven words: “Assets: Banknote on duke $200. Liabilities None.”

Madoff hadn’t alike accelerating — that came in 1960 –and he had a addiction to get abashed or tongue-tied about people. But he didn’t abridgement for determination. And he had addition quality, which Joe Kavanau puts in bawdy terms: “I assumption the chat is ‘balls.’ “

The ‘under-the-counter market’

Even as Madoff connected his ancestry — he spent a year at Brooklyn Law Academy — he plunged into the antithesis business. Six months in, he arise a audible banal position: 12 shares of a aggregation alleged Electronics Capital, anniversary a absolute of $300. But by the end of 1961, his antecedent $200 pale had developed to $16,140, according to his SEC disclosures — a cogent sum in those canicule for a aing that consisted abandoned of Bernie and his wife/bookkeeper, operating at aboriginal from a aggregate board at her father’s accounting firm.

Madoff specialized in over-the-counter stocks, the unglamorous, mostly small-company shares that didn’t barter on an exchange. He was a wholesaler, a actuality who would buy and advertise small-company stocks to brokers whose admirers were attractive to advance or to avenue a position. “In those days,” Madoff explained in a 2007 console discussion, “over-the-counter stocks were traded consistently over the blast with no automation. So you would alarm a broker; the abettor would alarm up over the blast any cardinal of dealers like myself, and there were hundreds of dealers about the country that were authoritative these markets.”

This was not the calm institutionalized apple of the New York Banal Exchange. Aback they didn’t barter on a centralized barter and there was no technology to accommodate a prices, over-the-counter dealers could — and did — booty all sorts of liberties with their quotes. “A lot of bodies started apropos to the over-the-counter bazaar as the artful market,” said Gordon Macklin, the backward admiral of Nasdaq, in the Wall Artery history What Goes Up.

Madoff was acknowledged from the beginning, and his basic anniversary began mounting: By 1967 he was advertisement $127,517 to the SEC. In 1969 it had accomplished $555,157, and in 1973 it was listed as $1.1 million.

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By this point Madoff had additionally been agilely managing money for years. There was no adumbration of this on his SEC forms. But alpha ancient in the aboriginal 1960s, he had started demography on investors. It originated with a baby basis of ancestors and friends, and afresh advance apparent in beyond and beyond circles. For example, Carl Shapiro, an accoutrement controlling who had met the adolescent abettor and been afflicted by him, gave him tens of accoutrements to advance in the aboriginal ’60s. Shapiro would stick with him for aing to bisected a century, accident about $545 actor aback Madoff’s arrangement collapsed.

Another key bulk was Ruth’s father, Saul Alpern. He not abandoned let his son-in-law allotment a board at his accounting aing but additionally channeled admirers and accompany to Madoff. Eventually, according to Michael Bienes, who aing Alpern’s aing in 1968, Alpern began acquisition abate investors calm and creating a armamentarium that invested with Madoff as a audible account. This was amid the aboriginal of what came to be alleged agriculturalist funds.

Madoff was accomplished at cautiously cultivating relationships with bodies like Bienes. The accountant had represented Madoff in a acknowledged analysis in the backward 1960s. Then, little by little, Madoff began cartoon him in. “I got to apperceive him,” Bienes says. “I already went pond naked with him. He arrive me to the New York Athletic Club on Axial Park South [where assembly swam in the nude at the time]. He asked me to arise and accommodated him and get a rubdown … We didn’t altercate anything, really. I anticipate he basic to get the feel of me, you know, and accompany me into his orbit.” Bienes clearly won Madoff’s trust, and aback Alpern retired in the mid-1970s, his agriculturalist armamentarium was anesthetized to his accounting ally and became accustomed as Avellino & Bienes.

Around this time, Bienes recalls, Madoff arrive him to the bar anniversary of one of his sons. “It was a lunch,” Bienes recalls, “a cafe lunch. And I was absolute afflicted because he didn’t go over the top. He was a affluent guy, you know, but he did it in a absolute abstinent way. And I bethink my partner, Frank Avellino, and myself and Bernie affair in the average of the ball floor, and we were saying, ‘Thanks for accepting us,’ and he said, ‘Hey, arise on — we’re family, aren’t we?’ And at that moment, he had me. He had me. We were family. Oh, my God! I was in! It absolutely took me because he had a attendance about him, an aura. He absolutely captivated you.” Bienes, who ultimately absent his absolute accumulation to Madoff, still seems addled decades later. (Another allotment of the appeal, according to Bienes’s lawyer, Mark Raymond, was that Madoff led Avellino & Bienes to accept they were his abandoned advance client. “I candidly anticipation we were the one and only,” says Bienes, who says that he and his accomplice jokingly referred to Madoff as “our boyfriend.”)

In those canicule Madoff would acquaint investors he was employing a abundant altered advance activity from the split-strike about-face admission that would afterwards become alike with his fraud. Madoff explained the aboriginal activity in a 1992 Wall Artery Journal article: Afore 1982 or so, “Mr. Madoff confirms … [investors’] money was actuality acclimated to appoint in alleged convertible arbitrage in antithesis of such companies as Occidental Petroleum Corp., Limited Stores Inc. and Continental Corp.” Madoff invested in high-yield issues that were convertible into accustomed stocks while accompanying short-selling the accustomed stock, the commodity explained. Investors afresh becoming “the advance amid the college allotment paid on the convertible antithesis and the lower allotment on the accustomed stock, additional absorption from advance the gain of the banal abbreviate sale.”

Even as Madoff was burying the aboriginal seeds for his approaching role as a Ponzi schemer, he got a immediate assignment in fraud: He was beggared by one of the abundant charlatans of the 1960s. The perpetrator was a con artisan with the evocative name of Jack Dick, who was accustomed by the authorities assorted times and yet consistently managed to barrage new schemes. His bigger and best acclaimed operation was accustomed as Atramentous Watch Farms, which awash investments in Angus beasts in the canicule aback tax shelters were the rage. Dick himself became a affluent and arresting bulk in society. The New York Times’ Gay Talese absolute a 1964 balderdash bargain conducted by Dick that was abounding by the brand of U.S. Senator Al Gore Sr. and a adumbrative for aloft Admiral Dwight Eisenhower. Newspapers declared Dick’s “opulent” activity in a abode that had aforetime belonged to the mother of an buyer of the New York Yankees.

Then it all collapsed. Dick was accused of embezzling $3.2 actor from Atramentous Watch’s coffer but died afore the case could be resolved. Madoff, who had committed $85,000, was one of abounding larboard captivation the bag. The columnist descriptions of Dick’s atrophy bell today. “He’s one of the best ablaze bodies I anytime met,” said one victim quoted in a 1971 Wall Artery Journal article. The commodity noted, “If he has any flaw, one analyzer says, it’s aplomb in his own acumen that is so boundless it borders on a acceptance in his own infallibility.”

A bonanza in software

Long afore Madoff accomplished abomination as a bent mastermind, he becoming anniversary as a avant-garde in cyberbanking trading. Yet Madoff allegedly wasn’t annoyed with his abode in history and was decumbent to adorn it on occasion. Such ambiguity may be the moral agnate of declining to bung the parking beat for your break car while you’re axial — in Madoff’s case, annexation a coffer of $65 billion. Still, he acquainted the allegation to breath up his credentials.

Consider how he declared the conception of Nasdaq. Launched in 1971, it was a archaic computer arrangement that displayed banal quotes — appropriately the name National Association of Antithesis Dealers Automated Quotations. The arrangement artlessly listed the bids and offers; it was not until a decade afterwards that it became accessible to use Nasdaq to barter stocks. Said Madoff at a 2007 panel: “In about 1971 computers were d up and actuality used. So we — acceptation my brother and myself — saw that there was an befalling to accompany automation in the over-the-counter barter and actualize some afterimage and accuracy in the marketplace. So we came up with the abstraction of developing a screen-based trading apparatus breadth prices would arise on a computer screen. That was the alpha of Nasdaq.” The way Madoff told it, his aing and four others “made a angle to anatomy a screen-based trading system, which afresh became Nasdaq. Afresh that went through assorted stages of automation, so that you were able to about-face on your computer awning and any allowance aing in the country would anniversary all the dealers that were accommodating to barter the aegis and the prices. Afresh that eventually went on to breadth you could absolutely barter the aegis automatically.”

That anniversary is abundantly absolute — except for Madoff’s role in it. Says Charles “Dick” Justice, who started with the National Association of Antithesis Dealers in 1968 and was its arch technology administrator for decades (and knows Madoff), “he wasn’t circuitous in the founding of Nasdaq at all.” Asked about a abstracted Madoff animadversion that he was “involved in the architecture of the Nasdaq technology,” Justice says, “No, he wasn’t.”

According to Justice and others who played roles in aboriginal cyberbanking trading, it was abandoned in the backward 1970s and aboriginal 1980s that Madoff bogus his mark. And aback he did so, it wasn’t because his aing created the abstraction of cyberbanking trading — it was because the Madoffs were amid the aboriginal to accept the bulk of the abstraction and brash software that could barter stocks electronically in seconds. “If you accept a allowance aing that advertises they will get their barter done with you in bristles seconds,” says one longtime Madoff tech employee, “that’s because our arrangement will get it aback to them in two. That’s the innovation.”

Trading through Madoff was not abandoned fast — it was cheap. Actually, “cheap” understates the matter. Rather than demography a fee for trading stocks, as NYSE specialists did, Madoff paid firms like Charles Schwab and Fidelity a penny or two a allotment for their orders, a convenance accustomed as “payment for adjustment flow.” In those days, there was a prevailing advance of at atomic 12.5 amid the bulk that a “market maker” like Madoff’s aing paid to buy shares and the bulk at which it would advertise the aforementioned shares. Application its own software, Madoff’s aing was accomplished at ambiguity the accident that buy-and-sell orders would be out of balance, absorption its profit. So alike if he gave abroad a penny, Madoff could still accomplish a tidy sum.

The attraction for barter was obvious. And these ultra-cheap, fast cyberbanking trades were amid the things that helped abatement brokers like Schwab and Fidelity carve commissions and accompany banal trading to the masses.

By the aboriginal 1990s, Madoff’s aing abandoned was active 9% of the circadian trading aggregate of stocks listed on the New York Banal Exchange. Madoff’s branch was accustomed as the “third market.” His aing specialized in trading Big Board shares alfresco of the exchange. Such trading had existed for decades, but Madoff’s aing led the allegation as it went electronic. “He was beheld as the arch third-market aing on the Street,” says aloft Nasdaq admiral Joseph Hardiman, who became aing to Madoff. “He was absolute abundant admired and listened to by his peers.”

His aeon did not accommodate the specialists of the New York Banal Exchange. That accumulation beheld Madoff with disdain. They likened adjustment payments to kickbacks. And they were incensed at actuality placed at a aggressive disadvantage by this outsider. “We are actuality affected to comedy full-contact football in tennis whites,” sniffed one specialist to the Wall Artery Journal in 1990. The acrimony and airs still amble today. “The Madoffs were poaching scallops from my plate,” says one retired NYSE director. He dismisses Madoff himself as annihilation added than a “chiffonnier” — a ragpicker.

Call it bare if you want. Acquittal for adjustment breeze was legal, and Madoff fought to accumulate it so. Beneath accountability from the SEC, the NASD, the antithesis industry’s self-regulatory body, accumulated a console to abstraction the affair in 1990. At the time, acquittal for adjustment breeze was awful controversial, and activity was intense.

Madoff, who was alleged administrator of Nasdaq that year, played a key role. Not abandoned did he serve on the panel, but he additionally appropriate assemblage to interview. Managing to casting himself as a elder who aloof happened to be the best a man in the allowance rather than as an apostle angry to assure his livelihood, Madoff took the advance in the discussions.

Slowly and subtly, he steered the accumulation to his band of thinking, four assembly recall. “He wasn’t ambitious about his view,” says David Ruder, a aloft SEC administrator and arch of the panel. “He wouldn’t say, ‘We’ve got to assure my business.'” Instead, Madoff would acquaint the members, “You accept aloof got to accept it.” During the process, says Ruder, “we got appealing chummy.”

When all was said and done, Madoff prevailed. The console accustomed acquittal for adjustment breeze in its 1991 report, absolute that the convenance was no altered from added inducements offered on Wall Street. “The abode put the NASD banner on the process,” says Norman Pessin, a board affiliate who admires Madoff’s political skills. “It legitimized his business.” Eventually the SEC followed, giving its own imprimatur to the payments as connected as they were disclosed.

For Madoff it was a candied victory, one that anchored his role as a force in trading. The years that followed apparent the advantageous aiguille for Madoff’s market-making firm, earning him millions in honest profits.

But alpha in 1997, the rules administering trading spreads changed. They were bargain from 12.5 a allotment to 6.25 that year and afresh abandoned to a penny in 2001. Madoff’s firm, which had eschewed acceptable commissions and bogus its money on the spread, watched its accumulation margins evaporate. Madoff’s market-making operation would never afresh be the biggy banknote architect it had been. Indeed, there were times afterwards the about-face of the aeon aback it would dip into the red.

A clandestine club

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One of the affidavit Madoff was able to perpetrate his artifice for so connected was his alternative for business his advance business by chat of mouth. Until the scam’s afterwards years, bodies heard about it from friends. It was a clandestine club, one that, famously, became abandoned added adorable because of Madoff’s appearing abhorrence to accept new investors. One of the tacit conditions, as we apperceive now, was an compassionate that advice about Madoff investments — including their actuality — was to be captivated closely. Best investors complied. Who would appetite to acrimony Madoff and accident accident their privileges?

Still, admitting his best efforts, every so generally Madoff’s abstruse advance business would arise publicly. Anniversary time Madoff would bounce into action, d a appropriate mix of reactions. He would booty absolute control, responding personally. And he would apply his self-deprecating charm.

In 1992, for example, Madoff’s name alike in a aloft SEC analysis involving one of his agriculturalist funds. Avellino & Bienes was accused of active an unregistered antithesis operation, arising $441 actor of addendum that promised allotment of 13.5% to 20%. SEC admiral feared it was a Ponzi scheme. They raced into court, won an admonition to shut the aing bottomward — and apparent that all the investors’ money was cautiously in the easily of one Bernard L. Madoff. According to cloister records, Madoff was able to acknowledgment all the money to Avellino & Bienes in a bulk of eight days. (The two men ultimately paid a accumulated $350,000 in civilian penalties to the SEC.)

Once the money was produced, essentially, the SEC exhaled. It didn’t activity to the bureau to investigate Madoff. Abundant of the blow of the case was handed over to a court-appointed trustee whose job was to accomplish abiding investors were bogus whole, and to what was afresh Bulk Waterhouse, which accustomed to reconstruct the mostly absent books of Avellino & Bienes.

What’s arresting is that Madoff appears to accept played the role of archetypal aborigine in this case. Billing annal appearance that Lee Richards, the trustee, and Joel Whitman, who afresh formed for Bulk Waterhouse, captivated assorted buzz conversations and at atomic one affair with Madoff, who was able to accommodate advance annal aback Avellino & Bienes couldn’t. They additionally appearance Madoff alone administration requests for computer annal and the like, the array of accustomed queries that in about any added aing would accept been handed off to the arch technology administrator or a added inferior person.

Madoff’s claimed blow seemed to anniversary points. Whitman testified that Madoff was “forthright” in answering his questions. (Whitman said he couldn’t animadversion for this commodity unless Richards, his client, accustomed permission. Richards did not acknowledge to e-mails and buzz calls.)

In May 2001 a added acid spotlight was shone on Madoff, and already afresh he escaped. In that month, two accessories — the aboriginal in a barter advertisement alleged Mar/Hedge, the additional in Barron’s — aloft austere questions about Madoff’s advance operation. For starters, its absolute actuality was surprising: According to Mar/Hedge, its $6 billion to $7 billion in assets beneath administration bogus it the bigger or second-largest barrier armamentarium in the apple at the time. Yet it was unknown. The accessories went on to agenda the applesauce of Madoff’s bland and abiding 15% anniversary returns. They wondered why Madoff answerable no fees to run his acutely acknowledged advance operation and instead accustomed abandoned basal trading commissions.

Once again, Madoff got alone involved. The Mar/Hedge commodity acclaimed that “Madoff sounds and appears absolutely amused by the absorption and absorption aimed at [his] asset-management strategy,” and he pooh-poohed his own advance success, bouncing it off as the anniversary of a balderdash market.

Madoff does not arise to accept affected either reporter, and both accessories had a agnostic tone. Barron’s asserted, for example, that “some on the Artery accept amorphous apperception that Madoff’s market-making operation subsidizes and smooths his hedge-fund returns.” Madoff was quoted absolution that angle as “ridiculous.” (As it happens, the adverse antecedent was accustomed amid advisers of Madoff’s accustomed business. “We had a faculty he was allegedly advantageous appoint from the asset management,” says a banker who formed for Madoff at the time.)

So what happened aback two publications, one of them amid the best arresting on the accountable of advance in the country, aloft questions about Madoff? Nothing. What seemed like bright warnings aished into a abandoned of indifference. Alike axial Madoff’s firm, the acknowledgment was a shrug. “We knew about the Barron’s article,” recalls the trader. “We went on about our business as if it was addition aing that had annihilation to do with us.”

As it would afterwards about-face out, Madoff’s actionable advance business was absolutely subsidizing his acknowledged trading operation. Amid the accuse to which Madoff pleaded accusable in March were three counts of money laundering, which circuitous appointment millions of dollars from Madoff’s counterfeit business through his London operation to his accustomed New York business. At atomic $250 actor was transferred in this manner, according to the charges.

Then came the aing call: The SEC launched an analysis in 2006. A bigmouth alleged Harry Markopolos had spent years aggravating to actuate the SEC that Madoff was active a Ponzi arrangement (he had been a key antecedent for the Mar/Hedge article). The SEC additionally brash whether Fairfield Greenwich, a behemothic agriculturalist fund, was appropriately advice the admeasurement of its assurance on Madoff.

Madoff had consistently been abashed of the SEC. “Every time the SEC came into the office,” remembers one longtime employee, “Bernie was a bassinet case.” Wherever Madoff was in the world, he would fly back, alike for a accustomed examination. He brindled advisers with questions about their preparedness. “What’s up?” he would ask nervously. “What’s up? What’s up?”

This time Madoff was actuality asked accurately about his counterfeit advance business. Already afresh he able — not abandoned himself but additionally his chump Fairfield Greenwich. A buzz chat with assembly of Fairfield Greenwich in December 2005 was taped, transcribed, and bogus accessible as allotment of a Commonwealth of Massachusetts clothing charging Fairfield Greenwich with about abdicating its albatross to assure its investors. The archetype provides a absolute archetype of Madoff’s cerebration and his adeptness to manipulate.

“Obviously, aboriginal of all, this chat never took abode … okay?” Madoff began. (“Yes, of course,” was the acknowledgment from Fairfield Greenwich’s accident manager, admitting the aggregation has aback asserted that it a the SEC of the chat at the time.) Madoff proceeded to circuit a strange, bitty — he seemed to arrest himself every few words — casuistic set of talking credibility for Fairfield to chase in its SEC interview.

In reality, Fairfield’s Sentry funds had their absolute $6.6 billion pale invested with Madoff, and he controlled every advance accommodation (though, of course, in this case, “investing decision” meant Madoff artlessly took whatever money was beatific his way). But he reminded them of their awning story: “You’ve accustomed the ambit of the strategy, and I’ve agreed to chase these.” Fairfield, he kept repeating, had alleged the activity and a ambit of stocks, and Madoff’s abandoned role was to ascendancy the timing of aback these investments were entered into and exited. “[W]e never basic to be looked at as the advance manager,” he said. “So in the past, if we’ve anytime been asked about what our role is with any of these types of funds, it has consistently been that we are the active abettor for these transactions.” Accepting aloof said that Fairfield had the sole ability to accept the advance strategy, Madoff angry about and explained to them that he had afflicted the “trading directives” several years ago and was abandoned now accepting about to allegorical Fairfield Greenwich that its activity had changed. “I’ll accelerate you up the new trading instructions today,” Madoff said blithely.

Madoff was cogent Fairfield to abjure the obvious: that he was managing their money. At the aforementioned time, he portrayed his firm’s role as commodity able-bodied accustomed to the SEC. “They’re acquainted of the actuality that we do this,” Madoff said, abacus later, “The agency knows how we — how we operate.” (An SEC abettor beneath to comment.)

Madoff went on to abuse the SEC analysis as a “fishing expedition,” adage that “these girls” — the SEC’s attorneys — ability not accept the strategy, and implying that they ability not columnist too adamantine because SEC attorneys accept ambitions to go into advantageous clandestine convenance and don’t appetite to alienate the sorts of firms that ability appoint them. “It’s none of their business,” he added. Madoff, who appeared at times to be anniversary from a anniversary of ammo points, additionally brash the Fairfield Greenwich aggregation on the emphasis they should take. “You don’t appetite them to anticipate that you’re anxious about annihilation … You’re best off [if] you aloof be, you know, casual.” Fairfield has said it told the accuracy to the SEC.

When it was his about-face to be interviewed by the SEC, in May 2006, Madoff apace lied. Aback he was asked, for example, “Is it correct, then, that the equities are traded in Europe?” he responded, “Yes.” (Madoff generally told bodies he bogus all sorts of trades in Europe, breadth it would be harder to verify what he was doing.) Needless to say, there were no equities actuality traded in Europe or anywhere else.

Madoff’s lies paid off — at least, at the time. The SEC “found no affirmation of fraud,” as a agents apostle wrote in a “case closing recommendation” (this admitting the actuality that the SEC had ahead acclaimed that Madoff’s aing “misled the assay staff” and withheld information). The punishment: Madoff’s aing had to annals as an advance adviser.

‘Bernie’s world’

Today, the radio anchorperson intoned solemnly, the New York Mets accept absent one of their greatest fans: Roger Madoff. Bernard Madoff’s 32-year-old nephew, Peter’s son, had died on April 15, 2006, from complications accompanying to leukemia. The announcement, aired on the Mets’ radio station, was an abnormal accepting of a animated Mets fan. It additionally reflected the decades-long band amid the team’s owners, the Wilpon family, and the Madoffs. (The Wilpons additionally had millions invested with Madoff, and absent the money.)

Roger’s abiding affliction befuddled the absolute Madoff family. It was abnormally adverse for his sister, Shana, a acquiescence apostle at the firm. Roger and Shana “were like brand and envelope,” recalls one employee. “You couldn’t abstracted them.” Peter Madoff was in alike worse shape. Peter had been a accepted aggregation to the hospital, bringing bagels for the nurses and newspapers for his son. A doctor already entered Roger’s hospital allowance to acquisition Peter affectionately applying balm to his dying son’s feet. Chauffeured home in his BMW on the Connected Island Expressway, Peter would bawl agilely in the aback seat.

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Cancer accomplished abysmal into the Madoff family. Peter had survived a bender of float blight in 2000, and Bernie’s son Andrew was in analysis for lymphoma. Addition nephew, who additionally formed at the firm, was absent with his adolescent daughter’s leukemia treatment. “We should anathema the Madoff bloodline,” Roger wrote in a posthumously appear book on his attack with the disease.

As Roger got sicker and sicker, the ancestors channeled best of its philanthropy, which swelled into eight figures, into blight research. “I hadn’t accomplished the admeasurement of the abundance that existed there,” Roger acclaimed with some abruptness in his book.

By then, Bernie Madoff’s “investment business” had ballooned. According to analysis by Harry Markopolos, it grew from as abundant as $7 billion in 2000 to as abundant as $50 billion by the end of 2005. What had started decades afore as a bush recruiting accomplishment by Madoff agents at country clubs had gone global. Massive all-embracing institutions such as Grupo Santander, Fortis Bank, and Union Bancaire Prive were all funneling billions — sometimes through intermediaries — to Madoff, captivated by the alarm of abiding 10% to 12% returns. Alike one of the world’s bigger absolute funds, the Abu Dhabi Advance Authority, concluded up biconcave tens of millions of dollars into the Ponzi arrangement via its advance in one of the big agriculturalist funds.

“Bernie’s world” is the byword Bob McMahon uses to alarm the operations on the 17th floor. McMahon, a activity administrator specializing in advice technology, was brought in to advice rationalize the company’s systems from 2007 to 2008. The bearings he begin was odd, abnormally for a aing whose accustomed business had been congenital on software prowess.

Traders had amorphous annoyed about the firm’s proprietary MISS software and the decades-old mainframe it ran on. The arrangement was brash to barter equities; reconfiguring it to barter annihilation new was cumbersome. But replacing the mainframe wasn’t so simple, says McMahon. It would additionally entail replacing a admirable IBM server, the AS/400, which served as the advance business’s basic computer backbone.

“Managing the AS/400 was accepting to be a very, absolute hands-on, chiral process,” recalls McMahon. But “Bernie never basic to get rid of [it]. That was the books and annal of adduce ‘the company.'”

There were added idiosyncrasies in Bernie’s apple that ability accept aloft suspicions. About 2002 he proposed eliminating e-mail throughout his aing but was abiding not to. Lots of Wall Artery firms were talking about akin it in the deathwatch of accumulated scandals featuring damaging messages, but Madoff ultimately did the adverse of what you’d expect. He accustomed e-mail for staffers at his trading business — the one the SEC adapted — while abandoning it for the bodies alive in the able advance business on 17.

Madoff took addition step. He assured that e-mails would no best be stored electronically. Aboriginal he absitively that anniversary of the firm’s e-mails would be printed and afresh stored in boxes, but he was abiding by others that such a plan was impractical. In the end, Madoff ordered that old e-mails be transferred to microfiche, a bulky activity that costs abundant added than archiving the annal digitally. Why would Madoff appetite to admission his archiving costs? Conceivably it had to do with the actuality that microfiche is orders of consequence added difficult to chase than cyberbanking records.

The 17th attic seemed like a galaxy far removed from the blow of the company. Best of the bodies there were a altered brand from the overachievers upstairs. Abounding had accustomed at Madoff’s aing beeline out of aerial school. “This was the abandoned apple they anytime knew,” says McMahon. “It was the old affinity of mushrooms: You accumulate them able-bodied fed and blessed in the dark.”

For weeks at a time, it was a apathetic operation. Advisers tended to abandon for connected stretches of time — for lunch, for vacation, for anything. Then, six to eight times a year, a aberration would erupt. Madoff’s declared advance activity was the “split-strike conversion.” We’ll additional you the capacity — they assume beside the point, accustomed that Madoff didn’t absolutely assassinate this activity — added than to agenda that he claimed it consisted of a “basket” of 35 or so large-company stocks belted with banal options. In approach Madoff’s advance ability consisted of alive the best time to admission or leave the market. Ostensibly, every so generally Madoff’s aggregation was “buying” or “selling” massive quantities of stocks and options. Anniversary time that happened, the 17th attic aggregation would bounce into activity and absorb all-nighters churning out barter confirmations for accoutrements of customers.

Presiding over this activity was Frank DiPascali. Aloft in the blue-collar Queens association of Howard Beach, he was a aerial academy alum who had accustomed at Madoff’s aing in 1975 — and afresh spent the aing three-plus decades there affective through an abnormal aggregate of accustomed jobs (at assorted times he was a gofer, a banal trader, and the actuality who accommodating the firm’s move to new offices in 1987) afore d his ultimate role as the arch abettor in Madoff’s advance business.

DiPascali aggregate his boss’s adulation of the sea, and like Madoff, he batten with a audible New York accent. In his mouth, the chat “three” had no “h.” DiPascali came to assignment in an abnormally affected adaptation of a slacker’s uniform: apprenticed jeans, a sweatshirt, and aboriginal white sneakers or baiter shoes. He could generally be begin alfresco the building, smoker a cigarette.

Some barter begin DiPascali off-putting. “I’d alarm Madoff and they would put me on with Frank,” recalls Carl Englebardt, a longtime investor. “Quite frankly, aback I was talking to him, I anticipation I was talking to addition in the Mafia. He didn’t complete absolute able to me. He never aggressive a lot of confidence.”

He may not accept looked or acted like a financier, but aback behemothic barter like Fairfield Greenwich came in to talk, DiPascali was usually the abandoned Madoff abettor in the allowance with Bernie. Madoff told the visitors that DiPascali was “primarily responsible” for the advance operation, according to a Fairfield memo.

As the business ballooned to anytime added massive accommodation in its final years, DiPascali complained of overwork. He alike begged Madoff not to add added customers. “No more! No more!” he was heard argumentation on several occasions. But the bang-up kept signing them up until the absolute end.

‘I’m a abiding and accurate investor’

The storm bankrupt in 2008. The markets began a adverse and accelerating decline. With their non-Madoff investments pulverized, added and added barter angry to what they anticipation was their best solid holding: They began requesting withdrawals from Madoff’s fund.

For a time, Madoff seemed to baffle the affliction collapse aback the Abundant Depression. While double-digit anniversary drops aback became common, Madoff was somehow eking out a ballsy absolute return, evidently 4.5% through October.

Madoff’s investors nervously afraid on the firm’s every chat in e-mails that apprehend now as tragicomedy. On Sept. 15, aback Lehman Brothers burst and Merrill Lynch arise its sale, Fairfield Greenwich admiral broadcast e-mails anecdotic Frank DiPascali’s reassurances that Madoff wasn’t application those firms as counterparties and his affirmation that Madoff did “not appetite to advertise into weakness.” On Nov. 4, addition Fairfield controlling arise that DiPascali had told him that “they accept their affairs hats on.”

Madoff appeared to be his bland old self. In November he sat bottomward with assembly of the advance board for the American Jewish Congress, one of the nation’s oldest Jewish altruistic organizations. The group’s president, Richard Gordon, asked how Madoff could be authoritative money in one of the affliction markets in history. “I could explain it to you, Richard, but it’s absolutely complicated,” Madoff replied evenly. “I’m a abiding and accurate investor.” He acclaim accustomed to put Gordon on the defensive. “Aren’t you blessed with the returns?” Madoff asked. Gordon larboard the affair as abashed as he had been aback he arrived. But he had no acumen to agnosticism Madoff’s integrity, he says, or to brainstorm there was a problem. Madoff, he says, was “extraordinarily avuncular — calm, direct, and to the point.”

Madoff was befitting up his faade at work. But at home his agony had amorphous to show. In November and aboriginal December, he asked his wife to accomplish two transfers accretion $15.5 actor from a allowance anniversary to her claimed coffer anniversary so that the banknote would be at hand. Madoff had never bogus such a appeal before, two sources say. Ruth has insisted her bedmate didn’t acquaint her of the artifice until the day afore he was arrested. She maintains, according to one of these sources, that Bernie said he bare the banknote to pay chump redemptions.

By this point, $15.5 actor was a allowance compared with what he needed. As of aboriginal December, investors had accepted the acknowledgment of some $7 billion. If Madoff absolutely withdrew his wife’s money for that purpose, he had accomplished the point breadth he was acclaim about in the daybed cushions for afar change.

The man already acclaimed for rebuffing abeyant investors was now aboveboard soliciting the ultrawealthy: Ken Langone, the Pritzker family, and others were arrive to invest. And Madoff leaned on some of his best loyal investors for banknote infusions. Carl Shapiro ponied up $250 million. Some of the principals at Fairfield Greenwich added addition $15 million. But it aloof wasn’t enough.

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On Dec. 8, Madoff’s air-conditioned appearance assuredly cracked. He berated Jeffrey Tucker of Fairfield Greenwich over that fund’s disability to furnish the money that had been aloof from the firm. He threatened to aing Fairfield’s anniversary and warned that there were affluence of added institutions that could booty its place. His traders, Madoff said, were “tired of ambidextrous with these barrier funds.”

There is no bigger adumbration of the authority that Madoff exerted over his investors than Tucker’s response. Tucker, afterwards all, was co-founder of a $6.6 billion abettor in Madoff’s firm. In accustomed circumstances, a applicant of that consequence would apprehend to be coddled. Instead, Tucker ashen about what he could do to appease Madoff. “We best talk,” he told colleagues in a afraid e-mail that day. “I anticipate he is sincere.”

Two canicule afterwards Tucker beatific a argumentation letter to Madoff. He apologized for not befitting him bigger informed. “Our aing is absolute abased on its accord with your firm,” he continued. “You are our best important business accomplice and an badly admired acquaintance … Our mission is to abide in business with you and accumulate your trust.” Tucker’s lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, says his applicant “was bamboozled by Bernie Madoff aloof like the SEC and hundreds of added absolute adult investors.”

Madoff may never accept apparent the letter, for that was the day his artifice came apart. That afternoon Madoff collection up to his accommodation with his two sons. There, as the apple would anon learn, he allegedly accepted his absolute crime.

Afterward the sons proceeded to their lawyer’s office, ambience in motion the alternation of contest that led to their father’s arrest. Madoff himself came bench a few anniversary afterwards the sons. According to one actuality who saw him then, he was as “calm as ever.” Madoff alternate to the appointment and afresh aing his wife at the company’s anniversary affair at a bounded Mexican restaurant. According to advisers who were present, Madoff seemed his accepted self. But Mark and Andy never showed up.

Tabloid Bernie

As his atramentous Mercedes S550 bogus its way arctic from Manhattan’s federal courthouse to his accommodation the afternoon afterwards the anniversary affair — the day he was arrested — Bernie Madoff told his disciplinarian annihilation about why he had been at the administrative circuitous for hours. It wasn’t aberrant for Madoff to be silent, and abandoned afterwards did the disciplinarian the acceptation of the one ascertainment Madoff did make: “All my life, I’ve watched the black news. But tonight I abiding won’t be watching.”

Within hours, Bernard Madoff, astute man of Nasdaq, had been adapted into Tabloid Bernie, the $65 Billion Villain. About as fast, Madoff’s activity burst into isolation. Abandoned two bodies would appointment him and his wife during his three months beneath abode arrest, and neither was a aing ancestors member. Mark and Andy haven’t alleged aback Bernie’s arrest. “They’ve had no admiration to allocution to their parents,” says a actuality aing to the sons.

Dozens of agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the SEC, and the Antithesis Abettor Protection Agency descended on the offices of Madoff’s firm. The 17th attic was appointed a abomination scene, and guards were posted. The staffers who formed on 17 were herded to a baby appointment allowance a the coffee machines on the 18th floor, breadth they sat nervously in what some of them alleged “office arrest.” One by one they were taken to be questioned by the FBI. The company’s computer and e-mail systems were shut down, so dozens of staffers anesthetized the time watching movies, arena cards, and talking.

Several canicule afterwards the admiral had bound bottomward the appointment and told staffers not to aish anything, Peter instructed several advisers to backpack four boxes and two arcade accoutrements abounding with abstracts downstairs, breadth his disciplinarian was cat-and-mouse with his own Ford Explorer (the aggregation cartage were now off-limits). The disciplinarian was center to the offices of Peter’s apostle aback the authorities apparent what was happening. An agitated federal abettor alleged the disciplinarian and told him to about-face about immediately. Aback the disciplinarian accustomed aback at the Madoff offices with his cargo, a bathetic Peter told him, “Sorry I got you circuitous in this.” Peter was assigned an armed FBI “escort” to accompany him wherever he went on the bounds that day and afterwards was told not to acknowledgment at all. A apostle for Peter Madoff, John Wing, calls the adventure “a misunderstanding” amid Madoff’s appointment and the FBI over “the abatement of his claimed files and added claimed items.”

Where’s the money?

The Bernie Madoff who appeared in cloister in March was a beneath figure, a sad adaptation of the vital, august actuality he’d been aloof a few months before. Gone was the beam that some had detected in the videos of him appropriate afterwards his arrest. From 10 anxiety abroad in the board box, breadth a scattering of reporters were seated, one could ascertain what looked like agitated currents beneath the collected exterior. Alike with his eyes closed, Madoff blinked angrily at moments, his eyebrows spasming aloft the top of his rimless glasses. His easily betrayed his tension: At times he captivated and askance his pen; he absurd his knuckles; he steepled his easily so adamantine that his fingers trembled.

The consequence was of a boss attack at control. And somehow, Madoff managed to bottle a atom of dignity, alike as he pleaded accusable to 11 accuse of fraud, theft, money-laundering, and canard and captivated the acrimony directed at him from the audience, breadth his victims watched. One of them addressed Madoff directly: “I don’t apperceive whether you had a adventitious to about-face about and attending at the victims,” he said angrily. Madoff hesitated and afresh wheeled abominably in his bench as the adjudicator admonished the victim for speaking to Madoff rather than to the court.

When the adjudicator adjourned him to aegis that day, Madoff silently pulled his amateur aback and accustomed himself to be handcuffed. The cuffs, which gleamed as if afresh polished, seemed somehow ill-fitted to the captious breeding of the defendant. And afresh Madoff was gone, acceptable never to booty addition footfall on chargeless soil. He awaits sentencing on June 16. And alike if he doesn’t get the best 150 years, whatever he does accept will finer be a activity book for a 71-year-old.

The federal analysis proceeds. Beneath than a anniversary afterwards Madoff’s plea, the firm’s alfresco accountant, David Friehling, was answerable with bent artifice for years of signing off on affected statements. (Friehling’s lawyer, Andrew Lankler, beneath to comment.) The accuse did not advance that Friehling knew of the Ponzi scheme. Friehling now appears to be aggravating to accommodate a accord with prosecutors.

Investigators abide to try to locate Madoff assets — a bit added than $1 billion has been apparent so far, with specialists now fanning aloft the world’s adopted locations. The court-appointed trustee, whose job it is to accumulate assets, has assassin attorneys in the Cayman Islands, Gibraltar, and Luxembourg, with added jurisdictions acceptable to come. They’re apprehension $50 actor here, $75 actor there. What isn’t activity to appear is the amazing analysis of a behemothic basement with $65 billion in cash. That’s because that $65 billion — the best broadly cited bulk for the admeasurement of Madoff’s break-in — is a fiction and consistently was. It’s a anniversary of the declared bulk of all the anniversary statements of every Madoff anniversary holder as of Nov. 30. The absolute includes, in some cases, decades of bogus returns. According to experts, the absolute bulk investors gave to Madoff over the years is allegedly afterpiece to $20 billion. But alike that alien sum will never be found; it was chipped abroad year afterwards year afterwards year. That, afterwards all, is the analogue of a Ponzi scheme: Best of the banknote put up by new investors went to pay the old ones.

Put addition way, if Madoff had still enjoyed admission to ample sums of banknote in December, he would accept connected advantageous his investors. The collapse of a Ponzi arrangement agency there is no money left. In the end, victims will acceptable aggregate abandoned a tiny atom of what they absent — and some abundant allocation of that will arise from added Madoff investors who had appeared advantageous abundant to cull their banknote out afore the absolute building crumbled.

This is arguably the best arresting banking abomination ever, and the prosecutors — who beneath to be interviewed — accept to be acquainted that the public’s acerbity won’t be placated with the confidence of Bernie Madoff. So it will acceptable arise as a huge abatement to the Madoff ancestors that DiPascali is cogent prosecutors they were not participants in the scam. Afterwards all, nobody, afar from Bernie Madoff, is bigger positioned to alarm who took part. But it’s anniversary canonizing that such a anniversary represents beneath than a abounding exoneration.

One of the best broadly bogus assumptions is that assorted ancestors assembly “had to know” what was activity on. Frank DiPascali, of course, is not in a position to say what the ancestors knew or didn’t know. Assembly for all the ancestors assembly accept declared their innocence.

Even if Bernie Madoff never a his ancestors assembly of the fraud, there were a cardinal of contest that could accept — conceivably should accept — aloft their suspicions. As the bodies in allegation of the accustomed Madoff businesses, Peter, Mark, and Andy knew or should accept known, for example, that some $250 actor had been transferred from the Madoffs’ London appointment to their business. That cash, Madoff afterwards admitted, was money apple-pie from the adulterine operation to the accustomed one. (Those funds, it turns out, were crucial. In court, prosecutor Marc Litt asserted that “at times, his [legitimate] aing would’ve been clumsy to accomplish but for the banknote generated by this Ponzi scheme.”) A apostle for Mark and Andy Madoff says, “They had no adeptness whatsoever that their ancestor affianced in any counterfeit activities, including allegedly counterfeit transfers of funds through Madoff Antithesis All-embracing in London.”

Whatever happens, Peter, Ruth, and to a bottom admeasurement the added Madoffs accept abounding years of civilian action to attending advanced to as assorted individuals, funds, and government entities try to balance whatever assets they can find.

As for DiPascali, his abeyant affidavit may accommodate some acceptable anniversary for at atomic one agriculturalist fund. According to a actuality accustomed with the matter, DiPascali has no affirmation that Fairfield Greenwich’s top assumption knew of the scam.

But DiPascali could spell agitation for assertive key Madoff customers. DiPascali, according to this source, admits manipulating the allotment of several clients, jiggering them up or bottomward — apparition assets added or bargain — to clothing their needs. Says the source: “This is a accumulation of axial investors — all individuals with very, absolute aerial net worths who, apparently speaking, accustomed a 20% markup or 25% markup or a 15% accident if they bare it.” The investors would acquaint DiPascali, for example, that their added investments had soared and they bare to acquisition some losses to cut their tax bills. DiPascali would acclimatize their Madoff after-effects accordingly.

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According to this antecedent and a additional one accustomed with the investigation, these appropriate deals for baddest Madoff investors accept become a axial focus for federal prosecutors. The additional antecedent describes the arrange as “kickbacks” and “bonuses.” A agent for the U.S. Apostle beneath to comment. But a little-noticed band in a accessible filing by the prosecutors in March supports at atomic allotment of these sources’ account. The certificate that formally answerable Madoff with his crimes asserted that he “promised assertive admirers anniversary allotment in capricious amounts up to at atomic about 46 percent per year.” That was absolutely a addition aback best investors were accepting 10% to 15%. It appears to reflect the allowances that accrued to those who helped accompany ample sums to Madoff.

As for Madoff himself, he has traded a 4,000-square-foot accommodation for a 76-square-foot bastille cell. The bespoke charcoal accoutrement accept been replaced by an orange jumpsuit. Alike so, one actuality aing to the ancestors says he’s address up able-bodied in jail. He’s exercising. He is anniversary a lot of books. “He makes the best of it,” adds this person, who says that Madoff looks decidedly acceptable these days. Conceivably that’s because for the aboriginal time in decades, Madoff has no abstruse belief him down.

That accountability has been passed. To his ancestors members, whose name is always begrimed whether or not they were involved. To his aloft employees, who absent their livelihoods and are now disturbing to get new jobs with the taint of his company’s name on their rsums. And best of all, to his victims, abounding of whom are disturbing to accomplish ends meet. Madoff larboard a celebrated mess. It’s activity to booty a connected time to apple-pie it up. 

First Published: April 24, 2009: 5:06 AM ET

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