How to run your own Ponzi scheme

Want to make $50 billion? Take a lesson from Bernard Madoff, and you too could be perp-walking into the Attorney General's office. Just follow these simple steps --

1. Establish a great reputation for acumen. Sporting a legendary family name, and serving as the head of NASDAQ are examples of how to burnish your esteem.

2. Immerse yourself in a social circle of rich people that share your background. Be convivial and cultivate strong friendships. In your heart, though, remain committed to ripping them off for all they have.

3. Start small. Offer to invest a few grand from a few friends, with the promise of better than expected returns. Call this the first layer.

4. Invest some of the money and pocket the rest. To make up any difference between actual returns and those that you promised, offer to invest a few grand from more friends, (the second layer), and use this money to supplement the payoff to the first round of investors -- and provide more pocket change for yourself.

5. Invest the rest of the second layer money. To make up any shortfall between actual returns and those that you promised, as well as the money you've taken for yourself, offer to invest more than a few grand from more friends, (the third layer), and use this money to supplement the payoff to the first and second rounds of investors.

6. Repeat. You'll note that as long as the market is booming, the invested funds will produce enough income that the new money required to cover the shortfall isn't huge. With the amount of cash you are able to pocket, you'll find it easy to mislead the SEC and grease the wheels of the press.

7. When the market tanks, however, you suddenly have a portfolio of stocks, options, etc. that aren't yielding squat. At the same time, the potential pool of new investors, whose investments have also tanked, dries up. Now you have no money coming in from investments AND no money coming in from new investors. When your current investors call asking where their yearly earnings are, you dodge them. When the SEC comes calling, you cross your hands behind your back and hide your face from the cameras.

8. Charities crumble, retirees lose their homes, your ex-friends and investors spit on your name. The verb "Madoffed" becomes synonymous with being disemboweled by a trusted friend. And no amount of money in the world can ever changed that fact that you will forever be loathed and despised by all people of good will.

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