Madoff and his classmates were each supposed to read a book and make an oral report in class, but Bernie, an average student at New York City's Far Rockaway High in the early 1950s, hadn't gotten around to it. So when the teacher called on him, Bernie announced that he would cover "Hunting and Fishing" by Peter Gunn and proceeded to fabricate a detailed account of the nonexistent book. When asked to produce the book, Madoff turned deceit into virtue. He didn't have it, he explained -- he'd already returned it to the library.
The anecdote, recounted in a trio of new books about Madoff, fits easily into the lore surrounding the biggest scam artist in Wall Street history, a man whose "extraordinarily evil" crimes, in the words of the judge who sentenced him in June, destroyed tens of billions of dollars in wealth for thousands of investors and landed the 71-year-old Madoff in prison for the rest of his life. The implication of the high school tale seems obvious: Even as a kid, Madoff played those around him for fools.
Was Bernie Madoff an Evil Genius? (cont.)