One Big Question for the Madoff Gang

09/12/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Stanley Bing Fortune columnist and best-selling author of business books

Yesterday Frank DiPascali, Jr. pleaded guilty to ten counts of fraud and other miscreancies in federal court. You remember Frank. He was the CFO of the Madoff gang. Didn't go to college. Started out pretty straight, probably. About 1980, maybe a little later, he began to get what the real picture was with the whole operation, since obviously no trading was going on anyplace. As the years went by, he worked closely with Bernie and the rest of the gang, many of whom are still at large, to fool and fleece a huge flock of sheep.

Some of the ruses they worked out would be funny, if you're the kind of person who finds rubber crutches amusing. In one case, show trades were displayed for visitors, with one side of the transaction taking place for the benefit of onlookers and the guy on the other end, supposedly in Europe or the Far East, playing his part in a room down the hall. If these geniuses had put as much effort into running an actual business as they did running their Ponzi, they might have made some honest money. Or maybe not. The markets are so notoriously unpredictable, unless you're a banker with a guaranteed bonus.

We sort of have the outlines of the whole sorry story at this point, with a few gaps still remaining for names that have yet to be filled in on the prison roster. One big question still remains, though. Here it is:

If I were Frank DiPascale, Jr., and I saw what was happening in the summer of 2008, I would have put aside perhaps ten or twenty million dollars very quietly and gotten the hell out of dodge. Same goes for Madoff, as far as I'm concerned. I mean, look at it this way: you've been a dirtbag for more than 25 years, a total, stone-cold crook taking the life savings from the wallets of the elderly, the charitable, your best friends and their families. Suddenly you don't have the moxie to make a clean getaway? What gives? Why didn't these guys run away? I sure would have. If I were Frank DiPascale, Jr., I'd be sunning myself someplace where the extradition laws were modulated by the friendly local constabulary, and all my new friends were calling me Pablo or Francois or Mr. Wemberly. But they all stuck around to face their victims and the wrath of a righteous public that now hates anybody that has money, even if it was legally obtained.

Sentencing of Frank DiPascale, Jr. will await his cooperation with the Feds. He probably won't get the 125 years he's up for, particularly if he keeps on wearing the fancy suit and tie he did at his hearing, rather than the sweatshirt and jeans he affected during his years as an accomplished white-collar criminal. Everybody's crazy about a sharp dressed man, particularly if he's singing like a bird.