Commentary: Investigations must begin with Madoff's guilty plea

This editorial appeared in The Miami Herald.

Bernard Madoff admitted guilt and was jailed last week for masterminding the biggest, longest running Ponzi scheme in U.S. history. When Madoff is sentenced in June, U.S. District Judge Denny Chin should show him the same degree of mercy that Madoff, 70, showed thousands of his victims. The judge should put him away for a long, long time. Madoff never again should enjoy the satisfaction of a peaceful night's sleep.

Madoff was as smug as ever at Thursday's sentencing, claiming that he alone was responsible for a $65 billion ripoff, trying feebly to protect his family and offering the ridiculous excuse that he was powerless to stop stealing once he had started. If prosecutors were expecting to get a few clues about how the scams were pulled off, they got nothing of the sort. As a result, Madoff's guilty pleas were more hindrance to what prosecutors must now do than they were helpful.

That to-do list is long, and will take time, but it starts with finding out where the money went, or whatever remains of it that hasn't disappeared or already been spent. Prosecutors should determine who helped Madoff carry out and hide his elaborate schemes over the years. No one person could set up and handle the deals, keep track of operations and work with clients to keep the money flowing as Madoff would have you believe with his self-serving confession.

In particular, prosecutors should find out what roles Madoff's wife, brother and two sons had in the schemes. Prosecutors should confiscate any ill-gotten cash and assets family members may have received. Investigators also should look for additional crimes Madoff may have been involved in and charge him with other crimes if they find any.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Miami Herald.