Seventeen years ago, federal investigators questioned for the first time whether Bernard L. Madoff was connected to a Ponzi scheme. Their inquiry centered on Frank Avellino, an accountant who had been funneling investors to Mr. Madoff since the 1960
The investigators did not get far. Within days, Mr. Avellino agreed to return to investors the money he and his partner had raised and to pay a small fine to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The inquiry petered out, and Mr. Avellino -- represented in the case by Ira Lee Sorkin, the same lawyer who now represents Mr. Madoff -- kept sending money to Mr. Madoff.