Bernard Madoff once had billions of dollars, but now he makes $40 a month doing menial prison labor.
"I used to work as a clerk in the commissary, and now they have me taking care of the telephone and the computer systems," said Madoff, speaking by phone from a federal prison in North Carolina. His prison phone account didn't have any money in it, so he had to call CNNMoney collect.
As far as the computers and phones go, Madoff said he has to "make sure they're working and they're kept clean," but he emphasizes that this requires no technical skill whatsoever.
Certainly his surroundings in a medium-security prison are a lot less comfortable. When his massive Ponzi scheme unraveled in 2008, Madoff had to give up his $7 million Manhattan penthouse, a beach house in Montauk, N.Y, his homes in Florida, and France, as well as a yacht named "The Bull."
Madoff took great pains to insulate his family from his financial wrongdoings, but it didn't work.
Madoff said that his deception began after the Black Monday crash of 1987, a massive stock market sell-off from which he never truly recovered. He said that's when he turned his investors into victims, but he insists that his crime was never supposed to go on for so long.
"It was certainly never my intention for this to happen," said Madoff. "I thought I could work myself out of a temporary situation but it kept getting worse and worse and I didn't have the courage to admit what I had done. It created a major problem."
Worked for Madoff, can't find a job
Many victims of Madoff's "problem" had hoped he would suffer in prison. But Mike De Vita, a Madoff victim who co-authored "The Club that No One Wanted to Join," observed that "life for him is kind of good in some ways."
De Vita doesn't believe that Madoff feels any true remorse for the damage he caused to others, even to his own family. He dismissed Madoff's remorse as "words, and words alone."
"How could a father bring his own two sons into a business that he knows is nothing more than a massive criminal enterprise?" De Vita asked. "If he has that little consideration for his own family, how much consideration do you think he has for us?"