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7 Celebrity Victims of Bernie Madoff's Ponzi Scheme

From Steven Spielberg to Kevin Bacon, 7 Celebs Who Fell Victim to Bernie Madoff's Ponzi Scheme

Since his downfall in 2008, disgraced financier Bernie Madoff has been the subject of several books, movies, and documentaries, with the latest being a series from Netflix, which hit the streamer on Jan. 4. In "Madoff: The Monster of Wall Street," the streaming giant is tackling the unbelievable true story of Madoff, who is known for defrauding celebrities and regular people out of $65 million through an elaborate and massive Ponzi Scheme.

Throughout his time as a force on Wall Street, Madoff persuaded people, both famous and not, to make large investments in a variety of stocks with the promise of a significant financial return. However, Madoff never actually invested any of the money he recieved. Whenever an investor asked for their returns, he'd simply pay them with money from a new victim, perpetuating a cycle of fraud with no profit for anyone but himself.

Madoff got his start in the financial industry back in the 1960s, when he founded a penny stock company, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, according The New York Times. For the next four decades, Madoff dominated the stock exchange, helped develop and jumpstart the use of electronic trading platforms (notably NASDAQ), and was a prominent philanthropist. His financial success, however, was all a facade and took a severe turn for the worst in 2008 when the housing bubble burst and clients turned to Madoff en masse to cash out on their investments amid the economic downturn, only to find Madoff didn't have their money. Following a tip from sons Mark and Andrew Madoff, authorities arrested Madoff in his New York apartment on Dec. 11, 2008.

After his arrest, Madoff pled guilty to 11 counts of money laundering, fraud, theft, and perjury in 2009. He was sentenced to 150 years in prison and died in April 2021, per The Associated Press. Madoff's long-running scam affected countless people, including a few notable celebrities. Here are a handful of his famous victims.

Image Source: Getty / Bloomberg

1. Steven Spielberg, Director of "Jaws" and "E.T."

Madoff was known for his philanthropic efforts, but even charities and foundations were not exempt from his scams. Through his charity, the Wunderkinder Foundation, Steven Spielberg lost approximately $340,000. Spielberg allegedly invested nearly 70 percent of the foundation's money in 2006 and lost it amidst Madoff's run, as reported by The Express.

Image Source: Getty / Michael Kovac

2. Larry King, TV and Radio Show Host

According to NBC News, Larry King lost about $700,000 after trusting Madoff to invest his money. Thankfully for King, he was able to get his losses back from the Madoff Estate and the government for taxes he and his wife paid on the stock that didn't exist.

Image Source: Getty / Steve Granitz

3. Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, Actors

Hollywood couple Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick were among Madoff's famous victims. Though the exact amount of their losses has not been revealed, Bacon explained in an October 2022 episode of the "Smartless" podcast that he and Sedgwick lost "most of our money" after investing with Madoff, per CNBC.

On the podcast, Bacon also shared that the experience taught him valuable lessons, and he was grateful to be in a better position than many of Madoff's other victims. "There were a lot of people who were much worse off than we were – old people, people whose retirement funds were completely decimated....There's always going to be somebody that's going to have it a lot worse than you," the actor said.

4. John Malkovich, Actor

John Malkovich, known for "Dangerous Liasons" and "Red," lost millions in Madoff's scam, which he later revealed was his entire savings. According to an interview with The Irish Times, Malkovich and his partner Nicoletta Peyran followed the advice of a business manager and invested with Madoff. The decision came at a cost, and the actor revealed, "Everything I'd ever made was gone."

Despite being financially devastated, Malkovich kept a steadfast attitude which helped him move forward. "I don't think it mattered that much. We just made changes to the way we lived and the money we spent . . . I had to do more work that paid for a number of years, and work all the time. And I stopped paying for everything. I just stopped paying for friends and family for a time," the "Being John Malkovich" actor explained.

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5. Jeffrey Katzenberg, Former Chairman of Walt Disney Studios

Jeffrey Katzenberg was the chairman of Walt Disney Studios from 1984 to 1994 and later became the co-founder and CEO of DreamWorks Animation in 1994. Katzenberg lost $20 million in the Madoff financial scandal through a studio executive business manager, according to The LA Times.

Shortly after Madoff was arrested, Katzenberg told CNBC (via Deadline), "I'm blessed and fortunate in that this is extremely painful and humiliating for me. It has done extraordinary damage to my philanthropy and the giving that my wife and I is so important to us. What it has done to other people is terrible. It's destroyed many people's lives. People that I know...It is something deeply wrong with our process and something we all should be ashamed of, that a man could swindle $50 billion. And forget me. But I'm talking about people who have taken their lives over this. It's a disgrace."

Image Source: Getty / Rich Polk

6. Eric Roth, Screenwriter of "Forrest Gump" and "A Star is Born"

Acclaimed screenwriter Eric Roth, known for Oscar-winning films like "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," "A Star is Born" (2018), and "Forrest Gump," lost $250 million to Madoff. In Jan. 2009, Roth sued his financial manager, Stanley Chais, for mismanaging his money and negligence, according to Business Insider.

"I'm the biggest sucker who ever walked the face of the Earth...But the tragedy is the people who lost their life savings and their dreams," Roth told The LA Times in 2008 after Madoff's arrest.

7. Elie Wiesel, Writer and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate

Elie Weisel, a Holocaust survivor and acclaimed author known for his memoir "Night," was among Madoff's victims. The Nobel Peace Prize winner and his wife, Marion, lost their entire savings along with $15.2 million from their charity, according to The New York Times.

"We gave him everything, we thought he was God, we trusted everything in his hands," Weisel revealed during a panel with Condé Nast in 2009 (via CNBC). "All of a sudden, everything we have done in forty years literally, my books, my lectures, my university salary, everything was gone."

Image Source: Getty / Bill Clark

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