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Madoff Behind Bars: The Insider's Guide

Bernie Madoff mugshot
US Department of Justice
Bernie Madoff mugshot

I have been talking to someone who recently spent a few weeks where Bernard Madoff is now, the Metropolitan Correctional Center, or MCC.

This man is currently out on bond pending his own sentencing on several wire fraud convictions, and he doesn't want me to release his name or the details of his crime at the moment, for fear it will impact his sentence.

But he is someone who has a lot in common with Madoff.

He says it is "certain" that Madoff has started his incarceration in the solitary area of MCC, called the Security Housing Unit, or SHU. In the SHU, any time you leave your cell, you are handcuffed and forced to walk backwards. Like Madoff, this man found MCC a very different lifestyle than he was used to.

Here is more of what he told me about life inside MCC:

"You are under lockdown for 23 hours a day. You are allowed/limited to the following:

1. Showers on Monday, Wednesday & Friday's.
2. 1 hour of 'rooftop' recreation Monday thru Friday (if the guard likes you)
3. A 3" toothbrush
4. A roll of toilet tissue for the WEEK
5. Breakfast @ 6am / Lunch @ 11:30am / Dinner @ 5pm
6. 8'x7' cell (usually with another inmate)
7. After about 3 or 4 days you are allowed commissary (Approx $270 a month)
8. A single library book"

This man told me he keeps kosher, but it took days—and an interview with a priest!—to be granted kosher meals inside the jail. Why? It turns out that kosher and Muslim halal meals have value in jail because of their fresh fruits and vegetables and can be traded for favors. He also had some interesting cellmates in the SHU: Monzer al-Kassar, also known as "The Prince of Marbella", recently sentenced to 30 years for selling arms to terrorists, including those who took over the Achille Lauro. Also, there was Anton Dunn, accused of falsely claiming he poisoned jars of Gerber Baby Food.

Need more proof this is a whole new world for Madoff?

Here's the sort of comrades Madoff may run into if and when he leaves the Security Housing Unit:

"After 14 days, I was transferred to G.P. (General Population), which after being in solitary confinement, was like being 'FREE to Roam' in a 'cruise ship' type of way. I was looking forward to the walk through the building to my new unit. To my surprise, I literally walked across the hall to 9N (9 North) from S.H.U.

I was assigned a cell in a small 'hallway like' unit with 8 or 10 cells. When I walked into the unit with the C.O. (Corrections Officer) I was greeted by a short, stout, grey haired gentleman. He extended his hand to me and said 'Hey kid, you come from the SHU?' I said, 'Yeah.' He said, 'You seen two young Italian kids from Staten island in there?' I told him, 'Yeah, they were brought in about a week after I was there.' He told me they were 'friends of his'. He said they were the guys that killed that Jeweler in Staten Island. He said they were trying to make a name for themselves. I didn't think much of it.

He then asked where I was from...He asked if I was Italian or Jewish. I told him Jewish. He said, 'Good, you bring anything with you from the SHU?' I said, 'not a thing.' He immediately 'ordered' the guy sitting to his right to give me soup packets, the guy to his left to give me shower slippers, the Italian guy sitting behind him reading the paper to give me a coffee mug and so on.

I looked at him and said, 'I didn't catch your name.' He said, 'Nick, just call me Nick.' He went on to 'order' me a haircut from a huge Jamaican guy who crafted the most ingenious haircutting device from a comb and three blades from two plastic razors. I was completely amazement!

...I later came to find out that this nice old guy in grey shorts and a t-shirt was none other than the head of the Gambino crime family,Nick Corozzo."

Finally, this man tells me that once he is sentenced, it's very likely he will be put in the same prison as Madoff. It will be interesting to see if Madoff, too, tries to convince someone (a priest?) that he wants the more valuable kosher meals as well.

Even though Ruth Madoff published a kosher cookbook, Madoff himself is known to enjoy the occasional pork sausage.

Questions? Comments? Funny Stories? Email funnybusiness@cnbc.com

  • Based in Los Angeles, Jane Wells is a CNBC business news reporter and also writes the Funny Business blog for CNBC.com.

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