The lush white mansion for sale at 34 Pheasant Run in Old Westbury on Long Island, N.Y., makes a grand first impression. It has a long, winding driveway; a tennis court; a two-bedroom pool house surrounded by lavish gardens; a parade of antiques in its hallways; and marble in hues of lapis and gold throughout the ground floor.
In many ways, the house is quite beautiful. But it is also a place full of shadows, a haunting just visible in its empty silver picture frames and in the red, white and blue signs that hang on every door: “United States Marshal,” the signs say. “No Trespassing.”
The shadow behind all that opulence is other people’s money. This was one of the residences of Peter Madoff, chief compliance officer at the firm owned by his older brother, Bernard Madoff.
Peter Madoff pleaded guilty last year to a host of crimes, including falsifying documents and lying to regulators. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to forfeit all of his and his family’s assets to the government, so they could be sold, piece by piece, and the proceeds distributed to victims of his brother’s Ponzi scheme.
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The U.S. Marshals Service took possession of the Old Westbury home in January, and late last month it put the property on the market for $4.5 million.
“When dealing with a home this grandiose, the outside world can lose sight of where all these fine things come from,” said Kevin Kamrowski, a deputy U.S. marshal. “Everything in this home was obtained on the backs of other people.”
When the Marshals Service takes over a property, a well-practiced process is set in motion. First, the house is secured and the locks are changed; motion-sensing security systems and surveillance cameras might be installed.
An important preliminary: Every single piece of property that is not a part of the house itself is indexed, appraised and tagged.
At the house on Pheasant Run, in the 600-square-foot formal living room, a forest of little white tags swing from every surface. They are on gold-color lamps, crystal candlesticks and a delicate wooden coffee table piled high with books, including “Dog Painting: The European Breeds,” “Dog Painting: A Social History of the Dog in Art” and “A Breed Apart.”
Above the fireplace, centered over a mantel of dark wood and darker marble, the dog theme continues, with a painting of what appears to be a chocolate Labrador retriever.
Once the house is sold, its contents will be auctioned to the public, in what will surely be one of Long Island’s best-attended tag sales.
Despite these little touches, the house generally does not feel like a criminal’s lair. Indeed, like any other high-priced home for sale, it has been carefully staged to show its prettiest face to potential buyers.
“This was staged with, believe it or not, my recommendations and the hard work of the U.S. Marshals office,” said Shawn Elliott of Shawn Elliott Luxury Homes and Estates, the broker brought in to sell the property. “Every single book in here was actually taken off the shelf, tagged and numbered and then put back.”
Elliott has received offers on the property, but none has been accepted yet. When the house is finally sold, the proceeds will go to a victims-compensation fund administered by the Justice Department, which has so far recovered more than $2.3 billion for Madoff victims. A separate fund for property and proceeds associated with Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities is being administered by Irving Picard and has recovered $9.345 billion.
Though Peter and Marion Madoff’s primary residence was in Manhattan, they owned the house in Old Westbury for more than 20 years.
As of last week, there were still a few signs of the lives lived in that house before: a pair of reading glasses on a marble countertop; two jars of marmalade left in a bare refrigerator; and inside a long pearl box in Marion Madoff’s bathroom, a single artificial fingernail tip, painted a warm shade of cotton-candy pink.