Madoff victims describe pain of fraud to judge

ByKevin McCoy, USA TODAY
June 15, 2009, 9:36 PM

NEW YORK -- Bernard Madoff's ruined investment clients described the Ponzi-scheme mastermind as a "monster" who deserves "no forgiveness" in victim-impact statements filed Monday with the judge scheduled to sentence him later this month.

In description after description of financial devastation, 113 victims urged U.S. District Judge Denny Chin to give Madoff the maximum penalty at the June 29 sentencing.

"We now have nothing," wrote Kathleen Bignell of Gunnison, Colo. "I told my father (89) he could not die because we didn't have enough money to bury him. This is what we are reduced to after Madoff lived so well off of all of our money."

"He ought to be able to look forward to just exactly what he has done to us. No hope, no future and no forgiveness," she concluded.

The statements included eight from victims who asked Chin for time to speak at the hearing, at which Madoff will face up to 150 years in prison. They included Burt Ross, a former Fort Lee, N.J., mayor who wrote that he lost $5 million in the long-running scam that victimized celebrities, charities, hedge funds and ordinary investors worldwide.

"Seven hundred years ago, the Italian poet Dante in The Divine Comedy recognized fraud as the worst of sins, the ultimate evil," wrote Ross, who urged Chin to punish Madoff's "massive betrayal" by sentencing him "to the maximum allowed by law."

Madoff defense attorney Ira Lee Sorkin declined to comment. He said the only public response on behalf of the 71-year-old disgraced financier, who's been jailed since his March guilty plea, would come in a written court brief or in sentencing statements.

The victims, however, held little back, pouring out anguish over elderly investors struggling to find jobs, homes surrendered in forced sales and children's college plans derailed since Madoff's Dec. 11 arrest in a scam in which he admitted taking money from newer investors to pay older ones.

"I'm trying to rebuild my life, and as I do, I watch my husband going back to work, leaving at 5 a.m. each morning to work in 100-plus-degree heat," wrote Ronnie Sue Ambrosino, a retiree who runs a support group for Madoff victims.

Natalie Erger wrote that her 78-year-old husband, a Korean War veteran, got a telephone sales job after the family lost all their savings to Madoff. But he was soon let go because he couldn't meet the projected quotas, she wrote.

"He is now trying to do hosting at a local bagel store," Erger concluded.

Echoing the complaints of many victims, Sheila Ennis of Manhattan Beach, Calif., said Madoff investors were let down by the Securities and Exchange Commission, which failed to detect the fraud.

"I am hoping that the judicial system does not fail us as well," she wrote.

"Please make sure that the facility in which he rots is extremely uncomfortable," urged Jesse Cohen, a Summit, N.J., victim who called Madoff "a thief and a monster" who stole his family's savings.

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