Tony D’Souza (Ivory Coast 2000-02; Madagascar 2002-03) spent the summer writing about the $400 million “Mini-Madoff,” and the wife left behind. The 6,000 word piece is the feature of the September Sarasota Magazine.
Eyes Wide Shut
Peg Nadel-and others who benefited from her husband Art Nadel’s Ponzi scheme-say they never knew what he was doing. But did they just refuse to see the truth? Award-winning journalist Tony D’Souza finds the answer may lie in a mysterious black box at the heart of the crime.
On a quiet afternoon in June, Peg Nadel, 76, paces the kitchen of her east Sarasota home, suffering through a debt collection call. “My friend,” she sighs into the phone, “my status has been in the trash. I can’t make any monthly payments. I struggle just to live. Hopefully in a month things will change.” In a month, a judge will decide whether Nadel-who has filed an affidavit that she is destitute and needs money for “sustenance” and medication-can access $30,000 frozen in her checking accounts since January 2009. That was when her husband-a hedge fund guru and jazz pianist-went on a secretive 13-day “vacation,” as he would later describe it to the FBI, to the great musical cities of New Orleans, Austin, and San Francisco, leaving the largest Ponzi scheme in Southwest Florida history in ruins behind him.
Peg Nadel, of course, is the fifth and final wife of Arthur Nadel, a disbarred lawyer and convicted “mini-Madoff” who died in prison on April 16, 2012. He was 79. Along with Neil and Chris Moody-a father-and-son team of investment advisers-Nadel managed six hedge funds that from 1999-2009 attracted $330 million by touting annual returns as high as 55 percent, even as the funds secretly lost money. Authorities say it was all a complex scam that stole $168 million from nearly 400 investors.
The slender Mrs. Nadel hasn’t given many interviews since that day her husband “disappeared.” But one with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in October 2009 included her agreeing to sit for a portrait. Though she smiled through most of the photo shoot, the paper chose to run a picture of her scowling. That was irksome to the former Ford Agency model, who once graced the cover of Vogue. Now that Arthur has passed, Peg-who currently lives on $1,046 monthly Social Security payments and has taken in a boarder, a car salesman she found via Craigslist, to make ends meet-would like to do a reality show about her life, or publish a memoir. She feels she has to talk because, “My story is all I have left.”