Sarasota Ponzi schemer Art Nadel: Fear of becoming known as 'Mini-Madoff'
Wake up and good morning. Maybe I just haven't consumed enough coffee yet this morning but I'm struggling to generate much sympathy for Sarasota Ponzi-meister Art Nadel (in photo, left, Sarasota County Sheriff's Office) -- now that the hedge fund manager who bilked millions of dollars from investors (then disappeared as investigators closed in) finally pleaded guilty on Wednesday to securities fraud.
Nadel says he is now filled with "regret and sorrow...more and more every day" for the grief he cause his family and former investors. Yeah, sure. Boo hoo.
Once a key player in Sarasota's social and philanthropic circles, 77-year-old Nadel is now known as a "mini-Madoff"who bilked hundreds of millions of dollars from clients. That mini-Madoff monicker is so appropriate. When Nadel vanished last winter as investigators scrutinized his business dealings, he kept in touch with his family with a series of letters in which he detailed his crimes and commented on news reports about his cross-country flight. Here's more from AP.
Is this poetic justice? In one letter, he worried that he might be labeled a “mini-Madoff,” a reference to Bernard L. Madoff (in photo, right), who was convicted of running history's biggest Ponzi scheme and who is serving a 150-year prison sentence. Nadel may face up to 24 years, which puts him over 100 years old when his sentence would be finished.
If Nadel did not want to branded a Madoff, neither do Madoff's own family. An AP story reports that one of Bernard Madoff's daughters-in-law, Stephanie Madoff, says she and her children shouldn't have to bear the burden of threats and humiliation of the Madoff name. She filed court papers in Manhattan on Wednesday asking to change her last name to Morgan. She made the same request for her two children. She's married to the jailed financier's son, Mark, who says in court papers he doesn't object. Here's the complete story.
As for Nadel, the terms of a plea bargain allow his family to keep a home in Sarasota. But the government can seize up to $162 million in other assets, including land in Georgia, five airplanes, a helicopter and a 31-airplane hangar at the Newnan-Coweta County Airport in Georgia.
Another big asset likely to be seized? How about that 420-acre property in North Carolina Art and wife Peg (photo, left, taken on site) bought with ill-gotten gains in 2005 near Asheville and now known as the Laurel Mountain Preserve development? Check out the development's Web site, which still lavishes praise on the Nadel couple and makes no mention of the historic debacle of fraud perpetrated by Art. In fact, the last reference on the site is about the Nadels' great conservation efforts.
In this 2007 New York Times story about the development, it says "Art and Peg Nadel, the developers, are offering 23 10-acre parcels for $345,000 to $525,000, and six parcels of 1.13 to 2.06 acres for $175,000 and $225,000."
The only hint that the jig is up on the development's Web site now is to contact the receiver for sales information. And the receiver is Tampa lawyer Burt Wiand, who is the court-appointed trustee handling the Nadel case.
In his plea, according to New York's Daily News coverage, Nadel also pointed the finger at his two trading pals, father-son team Neil and Chris Moody. The Securities and Exchange Commission recently brought fraud charges against the Moodys in Sarasota.
Maybe the plea agreement should have insisted Art Nadel's name be changed to Art Mini-Madoff Nadel. So fitting since he made off with all that money.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist