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Bernie Madoff leaves behind checkered past in Palm Beach

'I know one person that lost over $40 million,' gallery director says
Bernard Madoff
Posted at 4:40 PM, Apr 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-14 18:19:28-04

PALM BEACH, Fla. — Bernie Madoff died in prison Wednesday at the age of 82 while serving a 150-year sentence for running a Ponzi scheme that stole more than $17 billion from investors.

RELATED: Crimes of Bernie Madoff still resonate in South Florida more than a decade later

Madoff was arrested in December 2008 and later convicted for his crimes.

The disgraced financier later made headlines in 2019 when he asked President Donald Trump to commute his prison sentence.

However, Madoff was not among the pardons or commutations issued by the former president before he left office earlier this year.

In depth look at how Bernie Madoff's scheme unraveled

Along Worth Avenue on Palm Beach on Wednesday, there are people who still remember Madoff's name.

"Evil. It hurt people. It damaged lives, ruined some people. Many people went bankrupt," said artist Bruce Helander.

Helander is a gallery director who said he knew many of Madoff's victims.

"I know one person that lost over $40 million," Helander said.

Bruce Helander, Palm Beach artist and gallery director
Artist Bruce Helander says many Palm Beach charities were hurt by the crimes of Bernie Madoff.

Keith Singer, who runs Singer Wealth Investments in Boca Raton, said the name Madoff became synonymous with ultimate fraud.

"What was amazing was this attitude he had with people. He would tell people, 'Here's your money back. You can't invest with me,'" Singer said. "And people begged to invest with him, and he created that aura where you had to invest with Madoff."

Many of Madoff's investors lived on Palm Beach where he owned one of his many homes.

Former Palm Beach home of Bernie Madoff
The former Palm Beach home of Bernie Madoff located at 410 N Lake Way.

His scheme eluded authorities and only came to light after a confession to his family.

It was a loss that hit Palm Beach hard.

Ed Kassatly, the owner of Kassatly's on Worth Avenue, remembers when the news broke in 2008.

"They haven't forgotten because when you get badly hurt you don't forget," Kassatly said. "It was shocking. No one could believe it. The clients weren’t shopping. They were worried, and they should have been because the way it turned out was a disaster."

Some victims recovered from the losses but others didn't.

"The saddest thing was the amount of charitable contributions that went down the toilet because he was taking money out of trust funds," Helander said.

Efforts are still going on to recover the money lost, which includes more than 15,000 legal claims.

Take a look back at some of WPTV's coverage over the years following Madoff's arrest:

Bernie Madoff's Palm Beach possessions auctioned:

Maddoff's Palm Beach wine auctioned:

Book written on Madoff's lies:

Annette Bongiorno of Boca Raton convicted in Madoff scheme