A New York Mets baseball jacket, personalized for Bernard Madoff, is displayed during an auction preview of his seized items, in New York, Friday, Nov. 13, 2009. Almost 200 items seized from the fallen financier's homes are being sold, from furs, dishes and stationery to a historic Rolex dubbed "the prisoner's watch" made for Allied prisoners during World War II.
Call it “mob justice” by way of airing Bernie Madoff's dirty laundry. Literally.
Unlike last year’s auction of ill-gotten goods, comprised mostly of jewelry and other high-end objects owned by Madoff and his wife, Ruth, an auction this weekend will feature everyday pieces such as frying pans, wicker baskets, patio furniture, and unmentionables including Ruth Madoff's Prada panty hose and Bernie's designer boxers.
That’s right. His boxers, size 40.
“The United States Marshal for the Southern District of New York has worked around the clock for the last 18 months to make sure we were obtaining and putting everything the Madoffs owned up for sale,” said Roland Ubaldo, spokesman for the Marshals Service, which is running the auction. “Nothing has been spared. We are prepared to do what it takes to make sure restitution is granted for the victims of the Madoff Ponzi scheme.”
Madoff pleaded guilty last year and was sentenced to 150 years in prison after bilking investors of billions of dollars in one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history. Proceeds of the auction will go to the Department of Justice's Asset Forfeiture Fund to be funneled to Madoff's many victims.
The auction, set to take place Saturday at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers, marks the last of the couple’s personal haul to be sold off in New York. According to the Bob Sheehan, partner of the auction house Gaston & Sheehan that is facilitating the auction, items are from the Madoffs' Upper East Side Manhattan apartment and their former home in Montauk, Long Island. Last year’s auction, which sold items such as a boogie board with the “Madoff” name scrawled on the back and Madoff's Mets jacket, made close to $1 million. Sheehan expects Saturday's auction to bring in about $1.5 million.
“People are really interested in these deeply personal items that belonged to the couple,” said Sheehan, as he held up a pair of worn velvet slippers with the fraudster’s initials embroidered in gold thread. “Not only are they amazed by the excess displayed in what they owned, I think they want to say they own a piece of financial history.”
The slippers, made by Italian designer Gianmaria Bucelletti have a starting price of $500 but are expected to fetch well over $2,000.
Amidst the banality of the items, many of which would be right at home at a suburban garage sale, are glimmers of the ostentatious lifestyle the couple led, such as a larger-than-life engagement ring owned by Ruth Madoff with a diamond center stone weighing in at 10.543 carats. Bidding for the ring is expected to start at $300,000-$350,000.
Ruth Madoff’s collection of Art Deco jewelry is also up for grabs and includes two platinum diamond brooches, both with expecting starting bids of around $1,500.
Ruth Madoff’s interest in Art Deco extended to her watch collection. A Tiffany & Co. ladies' diamond dress watch set in platinum has an starting bid price of $1,000. Her Cartier Art Deco style dress watch is set with 45 French cut black onyx pieces and a total of 169 rose cut diamonds. At the clasp, the ribbon strap is slightly frayed indicating this was a piece that was well worn to charity galas and nights on the town. Its starting price is $1,200, a fraction of what the retail price would be, according to a sales person in the watch department at Cartier.
The Madoffs’ sheer display of excess can be seen not only in the high-end baubles but in multiple purchases of virtually the same item. Bernard Madoff had his own collection of luxury timepieces, including more than 20 bearing the Patek Philippe & Co. name. The other half included rare Rolexes, including a vintage Rolex Oyster chronograph wristwatch expected to sell for $25,000 to $30,000. The total value of the watches is well over $500,000.
Seventy five different colors of men’s cashmere sweaters, hundreds of monogrammed custom made dress shirts and three hundred pairs of the same leather Belgium shoes were grouped together in separate lots.
“I think he probably called the maker of these shoes and sweaters and just said I want one of everything you have,” said Sheehan. “By the looks of it, he has enough to wear something new and different every day and still have pieces left for the next year.”
One apt item up for auction is a framed cartoon of Madoff drawn by political cartoonist David Brion. It's titled "A Broker and the Angry Exchanges" and has a caption reading, "Bernie Madoff's Stock Buying Rivalry Irks NYSE, Amex."
On the upper left side hand is scrawled in black ink "Forever More Peter & Bernie.”