Perhaps no one has been a bigger symbol of the nation's economic turmoil than Bernard Madoff.
Now, on a cold March day in Manhattan, Madoff -- the mastermind behind the largest Ponzi scheme in history -- has pleaded guilty to 11 felony charges, including securities fraud, money laundering and false filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). He will be held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan without bail until his sentencing on June 16.
2. Burt Ross, 65
Occupation: Retired; former mayor of Fort Lee, N.J.
Relationship to Madoff: Says he invested with Madoff since 2004
"I spoke to him on the phone one time and congratulated him on the great work he was doing. Very wealthy friends recommended him. You obviously have to be careful. The SEC blew it. The Justice Department did not blow it. They deserve a lot of support and praise for what they did. In three months they put this guy behind bars for life. I lost a good chunk of my net worth [and I'm] unlikely to regain that. I probably will have to work longer but I don't consider work a four-letter word. I have to figure out what I'm going to do."
3. DeWitt Baker, 84
Occupation: Retired book publisher
Relationship to Madoff: Says he invested with Madoff since December 1994
"[My wife and I] don't know how much we really lost...[but it was] in the millions. Any discretionary money is gone...All the [regulations] that I saw as a young kid going through school that were put in during the '30s to keep this from happening have gone away. Congress doesn't fund the SEC enough. They don't have enough investigators. We'll live on our income stream. There is nothing [left] to protect. Fourteen years is a long time [to invest with someone] and you find you get very comfortable."
4. Brad Friedman, 48
Occupation: Attorney with Milberg LLP
Relationship to Madoff: Says he represents Madoff's victims
"We represent over 100 victims of Mr. Madoff's fraud. These are people who are almost entirely of retirement age [and] of modest means. They are not super wealthy...They can't pay the rent. We're trying to recover as much money as we can as quickly as possible. The first monies will probably come through the SIPC [government] insurance and then we're going to try to recover money through the bankruptcy process and also from whatever other assets can be uncovered...The bankruptcy proceeding...could take a long time. We're probably talking about two or three years. They need to see results soon. "
5. Miriam Siegman, 65
Occupation: Retired, consultant for nonprofit human rights association
Relationship to Madoff: Says she's been investing with Madoff since 1992
"The fact that he'll be in prison doesn't help either the victims nor does it prevent future catastrophes. I've lost everything...and it was millions... [My trust in the SEC] was never very great to begin with. But the government agencies in this case from the early '70s failed. This is total failure. Banking committees, financing committees in Congress, Sen. Schumer, Sen. Lautenberg -- all of them failed. I had retired. You know what the job market is like...Money I earn from here on won't need to be protected. It will be spent on food."
6. Gerald Strober, 73
Occupation: Co-author of "Catastrophe: The Story of Bernard L. Madoff, The Man Who Swindled the World"
Relationship to Madoff: Says he and his wife interviewed Madoff's victims for their book
"[He] should have been incarcerated on Dec. 11. From the moment Bernard Madoff enters jail after his sentencing he should never be allowed to see the light of day. The victims...will likely not see the kinds of money that they invested with Madoff...Most of them will not [recoup] beyond the $500,000 the government will give them. Because where is the money, where will it come from? The saddest thing [is] think of the people who sold their homes or small businesses [and who] invested everything with Madoff and now are totally wiped out."
7. Jason Bocchinfuso, 25
Occupation: Security officer
Relationship to Madoff: Says he has no relationship to Madoff.
"He really messed things up for everybody in this country. The guy is going to get what he deserves, but really at 70 years old, how much is he really going to serve? The faith in our nation is shattered. If this is going on with these guys that we're supposed to...trust...how could anybody want to invest in anything? I'm a young guy and I'm just starting out. It's really shattered me and my entire generation to be honest. If this was a blue-collar crime, the book would have been thrown at him. I think he's going to get a country club treatment and I bet he'll end up [with] a Martha Stewart-type deal. "
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