Bernard Madoff leaves federal court in Manhattan after a hearing...

Bernard Madoff leaves federal court in Manhattan after a hearing regarding his bail in New York. He is now serving 150 years in federal prison. (Jan. 14, 2009) Credit: AFP / Getty Images

A frail Bernard Madoff, facing the rest of his life in prison, said a variety of banks and hedge funds were complicit in and "had to know" about his epic Ponzi scheme before it was uncovered, The New York Times reported.

In his first interview for publication since his December 2008 arrest, Madoff said banks and hedge funds who dealt with his investment advisory firm demonstrated a "willful blindness" toward his activities, and failed to examine discrepancies between his regulatory filings and other information.

"They had to know," Madoff, described as noticeably thinner and dressed in khaki prison clothing, said at the federal prison in Butner, N.C. "But the attitude was sort of, 'If you're doing something wrong, we don't want to know.' "

Madoff, 72, is serving a 150-year prison sentence for what prosecutors called his $65-billion Ponzi scheme.

Irving Picard, a court-appointed trustee seeking money for Madoff victims, has filed lawsuits seeking tens of billions of dollars from companies and individuals he believes benefited from or aided in Madoff's Ponzi scheme.

Among the defendants in the cases is JPMorgan Chase & Co and the owners of the New York Mets.

As to Mets principals Fred Wilpon and his brother-in-law Saul Katz, Madoff said: "They knew nothing. They knew nothing."

Stephen Cutler, JPMorgan's general counsel, at a presentation on Tuesday said Picard "overreached" in his $6.4 billion lawsuit against the bank, and that JPMorgan "did not know about or in any way participate in the fraud."

In the Times interview, conducted in conjunction with a forthcoming book, Madoff acknowledged his guilt and said nothing could excuse his crimes.

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