All about the man who lost billions of dollars – that didn't belong to him

By Diana Pearl
Updated February 03, 2016 04:50 PM

If you can’t wait until Tuesday for the next installment of The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, you’re in luck – kind of.

In the same vein, ABC is debuting its own true crime mini-series tonight, Madoff, a two-parter starring Richard Dreyfuss as Bernie Madoff, the financier who ran a billion-dollar Ponzi scheme, and Blythe Danner as his wife Ruth.

Fuzzy on the details? Ahead of the Madoff debut tonight at 8 p.m. ET on ABC, brush up on the facts you need to know:

Who is Bernie Madoff?
A world-famous New York City-based investor who was arrested in 2008 on fraud charges – he operated the largest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history.

Why is he famous?
Or rather, infamous? Madoff’s Ponzi scheme ultimately led to a loss of nearly $65 billion. His company was multifaceted, but it was the advisory and wealth management component of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC that was shouldering the Ponzi scheme. After nearly a decade of whispers about the inconceivability of his operation (a financial analyst, Harry Markopolos, repeatedly tried to tell the SEC that achieving the sort of profits that Madoff claimed was impossible), he was arrested for securities fraud in December 2008. Those affected in the multi-billion-dollar scheme (including Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick) were clients of the advisory sector of his firm.

It was his two sons, Andrew and Mark, who turned their father into the FBI after he confessed to the fraudulent operations going on at Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities.

Andrew told 60 Minutes: “We knew that we couldn’t live with this information and not do something about it.”

What did he do before he was arrested?
Madoff was a finance big-wig and the chairman of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, which he ran for nearly 50 years. The company began as a penny stock trader (remember those from The Wolf of Wall Street?) and grew to be one of Wall Street’s most bankable firms. At one point, Madoff was even the chairman of NASDAQ, and his company helped to develop the technology used to create NASDAQ.

What was his punishment?
Madoff is currently serving 150 years behind bars for his crimes, so chances are high that he’ll die behind bars. His brother, Peter, who served as the firm’s Senior Managing Director and Chief Compliance Officer, is serving 10 years in prison. However, it isn’t just legal punishment involved – there’s been an emotional toll, too: in 2010, Madoff’s son Mark committed suicide, and four years later, his other son, Andrew, died of lymphoma.

What’s next?
Madoff is serving his prison sentence at the Federal Correctional Institution Butner Medium outside of Raleigh, North Carolina. He told CNBC in an email that he suffered from a heart attack and has been diagnosed with kidney cancer while in prison. So far, $11 billion of the original $17 billion that was lost in the original Ponzi scheme has been recovered, and most victims will get at least $1 million back.