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He Chased Madoff When No One Would Listen

Q. Did you ever think you’d be caught up in something like this?

A. You don’t think you’ll be entering the twilight zone. You don’t think this is going to happen to you. You couldn’t make this up if you were a fiction writer, yet it was real. My team—Frank Casey, coworker who marketed hedge fund products; Neil Chelo, coworker and derivatives portfolio manager; and Michael Ocrant, managing editor of Managed Accounts Reports Hedge, an industry publication—and I were in the field tracking Madoff across two continents [gathering evidence]. It didn’t seem dangerous until I was in it for two years, then it got extremely dangerous.

Q. You wrote that you feared Madoff or his mobster clients would come after you for being a whistleblower, and that you were prepared to kill Madoff in self-defense if need be.

A. It was apparent that some of the investors were tax cheats in their home nations, [some] were in organized crime. He was stealing from the Russian mob and from drug cartels. If those people found out he was stealing from them, they would kill him. We were lucky we weren’t killed by Madoff, who had a lot to protect. We took too many risks along the way but you couldn’t undo what you’d already done. It was safer to go forward.

It kept me sleeping well-armed at night. I was checking for bombs underneath my vehicle every time before I got in it. The local police department told me to take precautions. I was fitted for a bullet-proof vest but didn’t take it.

Q. What other kinds of cases are you working on now as a fraud investigator?

A. I’ll do Medicare fraud cases for free. I have a problem with people who harm patients or kill them. It’s worse than financial fraud. If you steal in health care, you’re stealing people’s lives. I have ongoing cases with the CMS [Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services].

You see all kinds of things—upcoding, where a doctor is billing for complex pneumonia instead of regular pneumonia; [falsifications in which] physicians are walking the hospital corridors waving to patients in their rooms but submitting bills for examinations and treatment; doctors billing Medicare for goods and services they got for free. It’s outright fraud and we can’t afford that.

Q. Back to Madoff, how has your life changed since he was arrested and convicted?

A. It’s different. I’m recognized and the last thing a fraud investigator wants is to be recognized. It’s caused complexities for my business but now when I take a case to the government, they actually take it seriously.

And I got to write a great book that reads like it came out of a spy thriller. The book is a page-turner but you know you’re reading about a train wreck. It’s flying off the shelves and that shocked me because it’s a tragic tale. But it’s uplifting because four guys went forward and took great risk to acquire this evidence. But you know how it’s going to end.

Q. I understand that major motion picture studios have contacted you about basing a screenplay on your book. Who would you want to play you?

A. Nick Cage. He’s a nerd with a hard edge.

Carole Fleck is a senior editor at the AARP Bulletin.

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