'Madoff Inventory' has Palm Beach pawn shops booming

At a time when most retailers are struggling, business is booming at Palm Beach consignment stores - thanks to Bernie Madoff.

That's where many of the disgraced financier's victims are now hocking designer clothing, furniture and other luxury goods at an unprecedented rate, local shop owners say.

"We're actually expanding the store," Shelby Bye, a manager at Chris Ellis Consignment Collection on South Dixie Highway, recently told wowOwow. Bye said the store, which sells high-end accent tables, armoires, chandeliers and other pricey household goods, is having trouble handling it all. "There's not enough space for everything that's coming in," she said.

This surge in so-called "Madoff inventory" comes on top of a seasonal purging of has-been designs and labels at this time of year, along with the downturn in the economy. That's leading to unheard of deals on everything from Hermès purses and Armani jackets to a $7,500 art deco expandable table.

At nearby Attitudes Consignment, a $1,900 Lora Piana Mini Globe handbag is going for $975. "I've never seen anything like this," owner Olive Grey told wowOwow.

For more fabulous finds, check out this photo gallery.

According to Richard Muth of Fiore Fine Men's Wear Consignment, the volume and value of the clothing he's seen come through the store is surprising, even for Palm Beach.

"People are starting to realize that maybe they don't have as much as they thought, or don't need as much as they have," he said.

A former member of the Palm Beach Country Club, Madoff was arrested by FBI agents in December and charged with running a $50 billion Ponzi scheme of bogus investment portfolios for charities and non-profit groups. His list of victims reads like a who's who of Palm Beach society.

"Certainly a lot of wealthy people were hit hard by the scandal," said Sally Kimball, the owner of Classic Collections of Palm Beach, adding that she's also seen a "tremendous increase in very high-end items" over the past month.

In recent weeks, many victims have also been ridding themselves of Madoff memorabilia on eBay, including T-shirts, fleece vests, beach towels, tote bags and backpacks emblazoned with "Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC."

Talk about collectors' items.

Deborah Barrow is the Editor-in-Chief of wowowow, the website for Women on the Web launched by Joni Evans, Lesley Stahl, Liz Smith, Peggy Noonan and Mary Wells.

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