They Took Bernie's Toes

I'm no judge, but that's worse than what he stole from Kevin Bacon

Bernard Madoff mugshot in circa 2008. (Photo courtesy Bureau of Prisons/Getty Images)
Donaldson Collection/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Before he died, Bernie Madoff — the Ponzi schemer who bilked an estimated $64.8 billion from clients like Hungarian actress Zsa Zsa Gabor and Kevin Bacon — lost two of his toes, eight of his teeth, and part of his prostate in prison, an arguably way shittier loss than whatever he did to Quibi mastermind Jeffrey Katzenberg’s Antz money.

We know about Bernie’s toes because the finance outlet MarketWatch has been specifically watching the Freedom of Information Act request market. They obtained 4,000 pages of Madoff’s medical records from the last 11 years of his life, between his incarceration in 2009 and his death in April, from kidney failure. Here’s how they described the former NASDAQ chairman’s time in quarantine:

In 2020, he developed gangrene in the fourth toe of his left foot — something not uncommon for people with end-stage renal failure. He would eventually have that toe and the one next to it amputated to prevent the gangrene from spreading.
For much of his last year, Madoff relied on a wheelchair and oxygen tanks to get around. He underwent dialysis three times a week, although he often cut treatment short or refused it outright because he found it too debilitating. He was placed on low doses of methadone for pain, as other prescription pain killers were deemed unsuitable given his kidney issues, the records showed. Madoff was considered a “high fall risk” and had lost eight of his teeth.

The article did not specify what became of Bernie’s toes, but if the pope’s colon is any indicator, we can safely assume they were “discarded as medical waste.” And that was just 2020. A decade before that, records show Madoff “fainted while returning from the bathroom and struck his head on a water fountain, leaving him with a broken nose, a fractured rib, a cut above his eye that required seven stitches and intracranial bleeding.” Prison guards found him “lying in a pool of blood.”

The culprit was not an attack, as they thought initially, but that the asset manager had stopped taking his blood pressure medication, “because he believed it made him feel itchy.” Four years later, Madoff had a heart attack and got the first of two angioplasties. In 2014, doctors took out part of his prostate because it had swollen to the point that it kept him from peeing.

In the days before he died, Madoff reportedly became delusional and talked to himself. One nurse, who heard him screaming, walked into his cell to find him sitting on his bed, staring at the ground, “wiggling his left foot,” and shrieking: “Help! I hate this fucking place!” When she asked him to quiet down for the inmates nearby, he observed: “Fuck them!” Intriguingly, he added later: “I gave them a pass and no one is respecting me or doing anything! I can’t believe they are doing this to me!”

Who exactly did Madoff give a pass to? You could take this as the final mutterings of a man gone mad over the loss of his toes and a significant chunk of what Healthline calls the “male G-spot.” But perhaps he meant the extensive network of colleagues, collaborators, and potentially family members who may have known what he was up to and on whom he never snitched. The good thing you can say about Bernie, besides having fucked over deserving foes like BNP Paribas and the town of Fairfield, Connecticut: he was a great boss.