NEW YORK — A lawyer for victims of Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme says the financier told him during a 4 1/2-hour prison interview plenty of details about the fraud, including how it took place and how securities regulators missed catching him.
The San Francisco lawyer, Joseph Cotchett, said he planned to use what he learned Tuesday to add defendants to a lawsuit to be filed in Manhattan this week on behalf of investors harmed by the multibillion-dollar scam.
“It was an extraordinary visit,” Cotchett said. “He was very candid, very open, and answered every one of our questions.”
Madoff, 71, pleaded guilty in March and was sentenced to 150 years in prison. He was taken two weeks ago to the Butner Federal Correctional Complex, about 45 miles northwest of Raleigh, N.C., where the interview took place.
Cotchett said Madoff repeatedly apologized for the harm he caused victims, about a dozen of whom are represented by Cotchett. The lawyer said he would describe much of what he learned from Madoff in his lawsuit.
Nancy Fineman, a lawyer who works with Cotchett and attended the interview, said Madoff described his meetings with the Securities and Exchange Commission while he was committing the fraud and the fact the SEC was unable to catch him, which didn’t seem to surprise him.
Authorities say Madoff cost thousands of investors over several decades at least $13 billion as he told them the money had grown to about $65 billion.
By the time he was arrested in December, only several hundred million dollars remained in the accounts of his private investment business.
Madoff and his wife have relinquished more than $100 million in assets, and authorities have identified more than $1 billion in assets that can be distributed to victims, many of them elderly and living in the New York area and Florida.