News came out this afternoon that Madoff was ready to mail $173 million in checks to family and friends as his empire crumbled. The only thing that stopped him was that the Feds arrested him on December 11th before he could do so.
The real question is, how much money does Madoff have stashed away for himself in various places? Obviously, he knew that his pyramid couldn't keep going forever, so he knew he had to have some getaway cash. And the entire 50 billion that's missing couldn't have vanished entirely into thin air. So how many secret accounts does he have in the Cayman Islands, and Switzerland, and Liechtenstein? How many safety deposit boxes are there stuffed with thousand dollar bills that only he and his wife know about? How many safes full of bearer bonds does he have stashed with friends? How much money has he buried in remote forests?
We'll never know.