Landon Thomas and Julie Creswell of the New York Times float a new theory to explain the largest Ponzi scheme in history: Bernie Madoff was a psychopath, the Ted Bundy of money:
“Some of the characteristics you see in psychopaths are lying, manipulation, the ability to deceive, feelings of grandiosity and callousness toward their victims,” says Gregg O. McCrary, a former special agent with the F.B.I. who spent years constructing criminal behavioural profiles.
Mr. McCrary cautions that he has never met Mr. Madoff, so he can’t make a diagnosis, but he says Mr. Madoff appears to share many of the destructive traits typically seen in a psychopath. That is why, he says, so many who came into contact with Mr. Madoff have been left reeling and in confusion about his motives.
“People like him become sort of like chameleons. They are very good at impression management,” Mr. McCrary says. “They manage the impression you receive of them. They know what people want, and they give it to them…”
That’s why Mr. McCrary says it’s not too far-fetched to compare Mr. Madoff to serial killers.
“With serial killers, they have control over the life or death of people,” Mr. McCrary explains. “They’re playing God. That’s the grandiosity coming through. The sense of being superior. Madoff is getting the same thing. He’s playing financial god, ruining these people and taking their money.”
Mr. Madoff’s confidence reminds J. Reid Meloy, a forensic psychologist, of criminals he has studied.
“Typically, people with psychopathic personalities don’t fear getting caught,” explains Dr. Meloy, author of a 1988 textbook, “The Psychopathic Mind.” “They tend to be very narcissistic with a strong sense of entitlement.”
All of which has led some forensic psychologists to see some similarities between him and serial killers like Ted Bundy. They say that whereas Mr. Bundy murdered people, Mr. Madoff murdered wallets, bank accounts and people’s sense of financial trust and security.
Like Mr. Bundy, Mr. Madoff used a sharp mind and an affable demeanor to create a persona that didn’t exist, according to this view, and lulled his victims into a false sense of security. And when publicly accused, he seemed to show no remorse.
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