Different Worlds, One Scam

Much of Theodule's alleged scheme was focused on southern Florida's largely insulated Haitian-American community, where community members turn to Creole-language radio for their primary news and where investing money in anything other than a savings account just isn't common, said Teresa J. Verges, an assistant regional director for the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Theodule attracted investors in part by assuring them that their money would help the development of Haitian-run businesses.

"Investors believed they were not only doing something good for themselves but something good for the community," Verges said.

Not everyone who invested with Theodule actually had the money to spare.

"People borrowed against equity in their homes, borrowed money needed for Christmas presents, money they needed to live on," said David A. Rothstein, a lawyer who represents dozens of Theodule investors.

Among his clients, the average person invested between $10,000 and $40,000 with Theodule.

By contrast, many Madoff investors lost hundreds of thousands or millions.

Affinity Fraud Victims: Should They Have Known Better?

While many of Madoff's investors were not Jewish, some of his biggest investors included well-established Jewish organizations like the national philanthropic group Hadassah and New York's Yeshiva University. Individual investors included well-heeled Jewish country-club members who socialized with Madoff or money managers close to him.

"A lot of business is done, especially at Madoff's level, at these country clubs, at a golf game or a tennis game. Social networks, business networks and charitable networks are all wrapped up together," said Rob Eshman, the editor in chief of the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, which has chronicled the Madoff scandal's impact in Southern California.

"These are people who not only play together and pray together, but they attend each other's kid's bar mitzvah, go to each other's weddings," he said. "It's a rarified world of exclusivity and trust."

Many of Madoff's alleged victims, critics say, were sophisticated enough to know better but were blinded by good returns and downright greed.

"They felt their money was guaranteed, that, no matter what the economy, this guy had the Midas touch," said Jay Sanderson, the chief executive officer of the Jewish Television Network, which saw two of its biggest donors felled by Madoff investments. "In many cases, the people who gave him all their money felt privileged to give him all their money."

At the end of the day, Verges said, any group is susceptible to affinity fraud.

"Especially when it's someone from our trusted community -- no one wants to believe that that person would essentially violate them or steal from them," she said. "In fact, that's exactly what these perpetrators are banking on."

In the last 10 years, the SEC has filed charges against affinity fraud schemes targeting Korean-Americans, Jehovah's Witnesses, African-American Baptists, Latin American investors and Texas senior citizens, among others.

Brad Garrett, an ABC News consultant and a former FBI agent, said that chances are, there are many more affinity fraud scams that have gone unreported. Garrett said that, as with other crimes, victims may feel embarrassed to report the crimes or may simply want to avoid contact with police.

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