Buyers pay big bucks at Madoff auction

This undated picture made available by Proxibid, Gaston This undated picture made available by Proxibid, Gaston and Sheehan and the U.S. Marshals Service shows a Steinway and Sons grand piano with bench, part of thousands of belongings from Bernard Madoff's New York City penthouse on the auction block in New York. (Nov. 13, 2010) Photo Credit: AP

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The music stopped for Bernie Madoff, but an East Islip man can now tickle the convicted swindler's ivories after buying his piano at auction for $42,000 Saturday in Manhattan.

John Rodger, 81, bought the Ponzi schemer's 1917 Steinway at the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers to add to his collection of nine pianos. He paid $7,000 more than he intended, but the "fever of the auction" got the best of him, he said.

"There was a lot of fever in that room, and another bidder was right next to me," Rodger said.

Evidence of Bernard and Ruth Madoff's high-flying lifestyle - their furniture, jewelry, watches and clothing - was projected on two screens to a hotel ballroom crowd of about 250, who paid $500 to listen to the auctioneer howl and possibly own a piece of criminal history.

Proceeds from the 489 lots - the presale worth of which was estimated at $1.5 million - will go to the Department of Justice's Asset Forfeiture Fund to compensate Madoff's victims, The Associated Press said. The former Wall Street trader, 72, is serving a 150-year sentence in a North Carolina prison, AP said.

Another auction of Madoff's property last year raised $1 million, AP said. His yacht and boats have been sold, as well as his Manhattan penthouse, which went for $8 million.

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Rodger, a real estate executive and amateur pianist since he was 6 who plays at the Huntington Yacht Club, hoped the Steinway would have its original wood, which would give it a better sound, he said.

"It's worth it to me. I got what I came for," he said.

Other successful bidders had personal reasons for buying Madoff's stuff.

Zach Zaman, 27, of Forest Hills, Queens, bought a handmade Iranian rug for $30,000 - the same rug Madoff bought from Zaman's father's store 10 years ago.

"When he walked into the store, he was like a god," Zaman recalled. "He ran a tight ship, and his people respected him highly. He had a swagger."

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Zaman said his father will resell the rug, which he says is a rare example of Ottoman decorative art from the city of Tabriz.

A New Jersey man said he paid $2,300 for a bar set he means to use as an object lesson.

"I want my grandchildren to remember how Bernie ripped off people who earned a living," said Mario Mazza, who bought Scotch tumblers, brandy snifters and silver-plated decanters with an estimated price of $680. "He was a genius how he scammed everyone on Wall Street."

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