Madoff Called A "First-Class Crook"

CBS News Investigative Producer Pia Malbran wrote this story for CBSNews.com with additional reporting by Associate Producer Ariel Bashi.


Miami businessman and former Philadelphia Eagles owner Norman Braman, is calling Wall Street financier Bernard Madoff a "first-class crook" who should go to jail for the rest of his life for carrying out an elaborate Ponzi scheme Braman calls the "scam of the century."

"He had a great reputation. He was respected," Braman told CBS News in an exclusive interview this week.

Madoff, who is accused of scamming some of the most powerful businesspeople in the country out of an estimated $50 billion, "was president of NASDAQ, a consultant to the Securities and Exchange Commission. He had every single pedigree that you could possibly image," Braman said.

Madoff won over investors, in part, by presenting himself as an extremely caring and accessible guy. "If a tragedy occurred in a family, he'd go to the funeral. If somebody caught a cold and he knew about it, a phone call would come," Braman said.

Madoff was also strict about who he would do business with according to Braman.

"You had to know somebody, a friend of a friend who had some influence for Madoff to accept an account."

Braman, 76, who in September was listed as the 281st richest American by Forbes.com with a net worth of $1.7 billion, says he has personally known Madoff for years and had invested a "considerable amount" of money with him, but wouldn't disclose exactly how much.

Braman said the people who dealt with Madoff did so not out of greed but because they were "interested in preserving capitol and earning a minimal return on their investments."

Braman's biggest concern now is not for himself but for those who invested everything they had. Braman says he knows a 98-year-old woman in Miami who depended on what she received from Madoff as her main source of income and he knows another widow who gave all of her personal savings and her late husband's funds to Madoff.

"Madoff has just hurt so many innocent people who really didn't deserve to be hurt," Braman told CBS News.

Investors had no reason to doubt Madoff, Braman said, because they would get a statement every month showing how their investments were growing. Braman claims to have received "graphs of information of supposed trades that were obviously fiction." He labels it "a classic scam in every single way."

Madoff also downplayed his wealth. "He was not a guy who gambled to the best of my knowledge. He didn't go to fancy restaurants. When we had dinner together in New York or [in Miami] it was never at a fancy restaurant," Braman said.

Just last week, before the scandal broke, the two men were on a conference call together. Madoff seemed "very jovial [and] very happy."

Braman also does not think Madoff acted alone. "I believe there were others involved in this and I am sure that the authorities will find out whom," Braman said.

As more details emerge each day on how widespread the Madoff scam was, all Braman can do is move forward. He claims his losses will not affect him in a major material way but he is still disappointed.

"I want to see him pay for want he has done to all these people," Braman said. "That's what the law should deal with because I don't think there will be any recovery here at all, none."

Last week, CBS News reached out to Madoff's lawyer for comment about the scandal. We have not received a response back.
By Pia Malbran
  • Pia Malbran

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