and Larry Neumeister
NEW YORK: Peter Madoff was the quiet one.
While Bernard Madoff was the face of the investment firm that attracted rich and famous clients with too-good-to-be-true returns, his younger brother kept firmly behind the scenes.
It stayed that way even after Bernard Madoff was arrested in 2008 on charges he orchestrated the largest Ponzi scheme in history. In his 2009 guilty plea, Bernie Madoff maintained that his brother had nothing to do with it — and for more than three years, his brother stuck to the script.
“Peter Madoff is not Bernard Madoff” is how Peter’s lawyers put it when defending him against harsh accusations leveled by a trustee appointed to recover stolen assets.
The younger Madoff, 66, is scheduled to emerge from the shadows today and plead guilty to conspiracy charges, becoming the only other family member to admit a role in the epic scheme. He will likely be sentenced to 10 years in prison, a small fraction of his brother’s 150-year term. He also has agreed to forfeit his assets.
The FBI had been suspicious from the start about a man who had worked side by side with his notorious brother for more than 40 years.
Friends and business associates had described the brothers as being very close. Their offices at Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC in midtown Manhattan were a few feet from each other. Their families vacationed together.
A graduate of Fordham Law School, Peter Madoff was the firm’s top technocrat.
He was credited with creating a computer trading system for the firm in the late 1970s and early 1980s that was considered groundbreaking at the time. He ran the daily trading operation while his brother focused on the more secretive investment advisory arm.
He made a good enough living to own a $1.7 million home in Old Westbury, on Long Island, and a Palm Beach, Fla., vacation house that recently sold for $5.5 million.
When Bernie Madoff was arrested, Peter broke the news to Madoff Securities employees. And he was a co-signer on a $10 million bond that won his brother’s release.
Through attorneys, he denied any wrongdoing.
But the denial didn’t stop federal authorities from moving to freeze Peter Madoff’s assets. He agreed not to dispose of his substantial fortune and promised to curtail his personal spending as the investigation moved forward. His living expenses were capped at $10,000 a month.