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Frontline Examines Role of Key Players in Madoff Affair

An accountant and his partner helped Wall Street financier Bernard Madoff recruit clients beginning in the 1960s. The NewsHour airs an excerpt of Tuesday's Frontline, which explores the role of some of the key players in the fraud scheme.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Next tonight, from "Frontline," the world's first global Ponzi scheme.

    Financier Bernard Madoff pleaded guilty in March to defrauding thousands of investors, a fraud that prosecutors say may have totaled $65 billion.

    "Frontline" correspondent Martin Smith interviewed Madoff accountant Michael Bienes. And his partner, Frank Avellino, helped Madoff recruit clients beginning in the 1960s. This extended excerpt includes some material not used in "Frontline's" report, which airs later tonight.

    MARTIN SMITH, correspondent, "Frontline": Tell me how you get going with investing with Bernie, how that…

    MICHAEL BIENES, Avellino and Bienes: Well, Saul, his father-in-law, had been doing it. He gave Frank a piece and I got a piece when I became a partner. There was only about $2.5 million in the account. That was big money to me.

    We were only taking a small clip off the top. That's all it was. Couldn't take more. We thought that was the rule, and we never were pigs. That's one thing that kept us going. We were never pigs. We were never pigs.

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