Global Sakvithi

PALM BEACH, December 16, 2008 (AFP) – The crime scene, according to prosecutors, is the 17th floor of a stately New York office building, where Bernard Madoff may have engineered the most costly investment swindle in history. But nowhere was the deception felt more personally than in Palm Beach, Florida, the small and affluent island community where Madoff, a respected and former chairman of the Nasdaq, lived part time.

In what now feels like an inside job, Madoff carefully recruited a cadre of trusting and wealthy acquaintances from the island to invest millions — money that ended up fueling an alleged 50 billion dollar pyramid scheme.

“The community is in shock. No one imagined a guy like that would do this to his friends,” said Carlos Carraca, a resident on the north end of the island, adding people were speaking of little else, in restaurants and as they crossed path while running errands, or out walking the dog.

“A lot of families have been ruined,” he said. “Some people have lost everything, millions.”

The scandal began to unravel Thursday, when federal agents arrested Madoff, 70, at his Manhattan home.

A giant in the financial services world, he was charged with massive fraud and freed on 10 m