Broward News

Feds Suspect Ex-Lauderdale Accountant Is One of the Madoff Eight

Frank Avellino is the business partner of Michael Bienes, the alleged philanthropist who according to New Times' Bob Norman deserves to be scrutinized as an alleged co-conspirator in the government's cases involving Bernard Madoff. And now it looks like Avellino, at least, is getting that scrutiny.

A refresher, from Norman's article:
Bienes and his longtime partner, Frank Avellino, were among the first "feeders" to Madoff's fund back in the 1960s, raising hundreds of millions of dollars from their accounting firm clients, friends, and just about anybody they could find who had money.

By the early 1990s, they were managing 3,200 investors who'd put in nearly half a billion dollars, all of which they funneled into Madoff's hands.

Unfortunately, the operation was illegal, because Bienes and Avellino were accountants and not licensed to trade securities. The Securities and Exchange Commission caught them in 1992, fined them hundreds of thousands of dollars, shut them down, and forced them to return $440 million in investments they'd raised.

And yet that brush with prison did not end Avellino's association with Madoff. The former Fort Lauderdale resident who still winters in Palm Beach still collected investors' funds and sent them to the soon-to-be-sentenced fraudster.

In today's Wall Street Journal, Avellino is named among the eight Madoff associates being investigated by federal authorities for complicity in Madoff's fraud.

If the feds are looking at Avellino, they're looking at Bienes, who was last seen on PBS crowing about how easy it was to get rich with Bernie. And if that video's not outrageous enough, re-read the exclusive interview he gave the Sun-Sentinel, in which he claimed to be on the "verge" of bankruptcy and expressed solidarity with fellow Madoff victims. Such a fine line between philanthropist and analrapist, as Dr. Tobias Funke might say.

Here's more of Norman's reporting on Bienes.

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Thomas Francis