'No comfort in Madoff sentencing'

Head of Israeli NGO says real pain comes from fact that such fraud can happen anywhere. (Video inside)

June 30, 2009 08:15
4 minute read.
'No comfort in Madoff sentencing'

Madoff big nose 248.88. (photo credit: AP [file])

With Bernard L. Madoff sentenced Monday to 150 years in prison, his massive fraud scheme will probably will be felt for years as victims struggle to recoup their money. Among Madoff's victims, are many Israel organizations, research centers and universities. Israel's ERAN organization, which provides emotional assistance to those in distress, was among the hardest hit with its biggest donors no longer able to provide financial support. Head of ERAN, Daniel Ginsberg, did not find comfort in the 150-year sentence handed down to Madoff. "There is no comfort in the sentencing of one man. Hundreds of thousands of people who cannot get assistance because of this scheme will not suddenly heal just because he received a long sentence," he told Army Radio. "The real pain comes from the fact that an incident like this can happen anywhere without supervision. The list of Israeli establishments hit by the Madoff scandal included the Technion, Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University, Bar Ilan University and the Jewish Agency. Meanwhile, Ruth Madoff - memorably christened "The Loneliest Woman in New York" in a recent New York Times headline - finally spoke out after her husband's sentence probably makes certain she'll never see him again outside of prison. She's been hounded by news photographers, vilified by former clients of her husband and ostracized in high society. She's also kept quiet for months - until Monday. "I am breaking my silence now, because my reluctance to speak has been interpreted as indifference or lack of sympathy for the victims of my husband Bernie's crime, which is exactly the opposite of the truth," Madoff said in a statement issued through her lawyer.

Prosecutors say her husband's multibillion-dollar pyramid scheme wiped out clients of his investment advisory firm while bankrolling an extravagant lifestyle for his family, including country estates, a yacht and international travel. Mrs. Madoff, 68, hasn't been charged with a crime. But a judge's forfeiture order has stripped her of $80 million in assets including a penthouse apartment where she still lives. That's left her with $2.5 million that couldn't be linked to the fraud. Since her husband's arrest late last year, negative publicity casting the Madoffs as soulless symbols of greed and excess has made her persona non grata at her regular hair salon, florist and favorite high-end eateries on the Upper East Side, the Times reported. Her husband of nearly 50 years came to her defense while addressing the court on Monday, saying she "cries herself to sleep every night knowing of all the pain and suffering I have caused, and I am tormented by that as well." Ruth Madoff, though not at the courthouse, later expressed her own sympathy for the victims. "Many of my husband's investors were my close friends and family," she said. "And in the days since December, I have read, with immense pain, the wrenching stories of people whose life savings have evaporated because of his crime." The statement didn't overtly condemn her husband, nor address the couple's future. But she suggested she identified with his victims who were blind-sided by his dark side. "I am embarrassed and ashamed," she said. "Like everyone else, I feel betrayed and confused. The man who committed this horrible fraud is not the man whom I have known for all these years." US victims of the Madoff scheme were unforgiving. "I was introduced to Bernard Madoff 21 years ago at a business meeting... I now view that day as perhaps the unluckiest day of my life... This beast who I call Madoff. He walks among us. He dresses like us... but underneath the facade is a true beast... He is an equal opportunity destroyer," said Sheryl Weinstein. Miriam Siegman said she was "robbed." "He discarded me like road kill... Forgiveness for now will have to come from someone other than me," she said. Tom Fitzmaurice said Madoff "stole from the rich, stole from the poor and stole from the in-between." "He had no values... His was a violent crime without the use of a tangible weapon... My life will never be the same. I am financially ruined and will worry every day about how I will take care of my wife," he added. Dominic Ambrosino said he could remember the exact second his wife told me the news. "The fallout from having your entire life savings robbed from right under your nose is like nothing you can describe... In a sense, I would like somebody in the court today to tell me how long is my sentence," he said. Carla Hirshhorn said that "life has been a living hell. It feels like the nightmare we can't wake from." Michael Schwartz said the swindler should "no longer be let back in society."

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