Madoff's Alleged Ponzi Scheme Destroys Life Savings, Sends Elderly Back to Work

To Abby Frucht, Bernard Madoff is "the Wizard of Oz."

She says her father, 84-year-old Howard Frucht, invested heavily with Madoff with a kind of blind faith that consistent, positive returns built up over the more than decade.

But in December, the curtain was finally pulled back on Madoff and he was arrested for allegedly orchestrating the largest Ponzi scheme in history. Instantly, hundreds of Americans realized their faith and money had been placed in nothing more than smoke and mirrors.

Last week, a list was released that named many of Madoff's "customers," several prominent celebrities among them. But behind the bold-faced A-lister names were hundreds of "regular" Americans, like Howard Frucht, who very quietly lost everything they worked for their entire lives.

Now those people are reacting, some with indomitable determination, others with pure rage and fury, to their loss and the deceit they say they never saw coming.

Elderly Man With Alzheimer's Unaware of $1 Million Loss

Abby Frucht, a writer from Oshkosh, Wis., said her father had invested with Madoff for more than ten years.

Now in an assisted-living facility in New Mexico and suffering from Alzheimer's, Howard Frucht does not know his retirement nest egg, around $1 million, is gone.

"It's both a blessing and a curse that he's not really aware of what's happening," she told ABC News. "He wasn't devastated by the breach of trust for the crime that was committed against him."

But Abby Frucht, who has power of attorney over her father's investments, has been devastated, even though she had suspicions about the Madoff investments years ago.

She said she once called one of Madoff's offices when she thought one of the investment slips she'd received had questionable stock purchases on it.

The lady on the other end of the line simply told her that she had misread the statement and that "BOT" did not stand for "bought" as she had surmised, but for "sold" and "SLD" stood for "bought."

"I said 'really?' She said, 'yes.' Either she was lying or she was just as much in the dark as I am," Abby Frucht said.

Eventually, she stopped calling.

"People in [Madoff's] office ... would be so rude and so off-putting that you learned to steer away from calling and asking questions," Abby Frucht said.

Still, she was shocked when she learned of Madoff's arrest.

"What gets me the most is [my father] started out with Madoff when he was in his prime. He was doing what he thought was the best thing for his family," she said. "To look back at the times Dad took us out to dinner and all that money was monopoly money was surreal."

Now she said she and her sisters are pooling their resources to provide for their parents' assisted-living expenses.

90-Year-Old California Senior Goes Back to Work

In his 90-year life, Ian Thiermann has done "a great many things" for work. Last week, after 30 years of retirement, Thiermann added one more line to his extensive resume: grocery store greeter.

Thiermann did not even know he had been investing with Madoff for the past 30 years until a friend told him he lost everything in December. He had trusted his money to the advice of a longtime personal friend who also lost his life savings.

But after he found out his life savings was wiped out, he reacted not with anger, but with inspiring calm.

"You either accept something or you don't," Thiermann told ABC News. "Hey, I still have a house over my head and still have food on my table. All you have to do is turn around and look at the millions of people around the world who are suffering."

Thiermann, who was a regular customer at the local Ben Lomond Market, was offered a job as a greeter after the store's owner found out about his loss.

"I could get angry but what does that do? Turn around to work and try to find some work," Thiermann said. Some of the money he lost, he said, would have gone to his children.

Now, he's working for himself again, but doesn't expect "to recoup [his] losses" at the $10 per hour part-time job.

Former Brick Layer Sounds Off: 'Madoff is Low-Life, Dirt Bag"...

Retired bricklayer Joe Rubino of Long Island, New York, is not as accepting as Thiermann.

"He's a low life, dirt bag, piece of dog crap, is what he is," Rubino told ABC's New York affiliate WABC describing Madoff. "He's under house arrest. He's got servants, he's got butlers, maids, serving him lobsters. I'm under house arrest and I did nothing wrong. I can't go out because I can't buy gas."

Rubino and his wife invested around $400,000, their life savings, with Madoff more than 20 years ago, WABC reported.

Like the Fruchts, Rubino received regular statements touting positive returns building up to one in December that said Rubino had more than $1 million in assets.

"I have it all on paper. But you can start a fire with it. It's all garbage, that's what it is," he said.

Now, Rubino said he has around $4,000 and few job prospects.

"A guy like myself, a brick layer, with a broken back, where do you go?" he said. "It's just horrible."

Man Sues Ex-Wife After His Side of Divorce Settlement Lost With Madoff

A New York lawyer this week sued his ex-wife for $2.7 million he gave her for her half of their Madoff account. Steven Simkin claims he and his former wife believed their Madoff account was worth $5.4 million. It is now virtually worthless.

The lawsuit seeks to have his ex-wife return money he paid her in their 2006 divorce, according to the Associated Press. Simkin did not return a call for comment.

According to Simkin's court papers, "Laura obtained a windfall and Steven did not receive an equitable share of the couple's joint assets... It remains only fair and equitable for Laura to shoulder her share of that harm."

Kids Forced to Leave School Friends

Diane Peskin, 44, told ABC News she and her husband were among those who lost nearly all of their life savings after investing with Madoff.

The Madoff scandal means she and her 66-year-old husband are back on the job market, they may have to take their two children out of private school and may have to sell their house and move out of Bethlehem, Pa.

She said her 10-year-old daughter cries in school because she does not want to leave her school and friends.

"We did what we were supposed to do. We worked hard and saved," she said. "I feel bad for everyone, especially my children, who have lost the security of their futures."

Peskin said it took her and her husband 30 years to build up $3.2 million in retirement savings. Roger Peskin founded a small magazine called Gallery Guide in his parents' garage, eventually building it into a nationwide magazine listing art gallery and museum shows.

After he sold the business in 2004, Diane Peskin said, a friend suggested investing with Madoff, who was known for his consistent, reliable returns. They gave the money from selling their old house to Madoff as well and lived off the interest from their investment.

Madoff Swindled Regular Americans

Now, Diane Peskin says she and her husband are looking for work and are trying to sell their house and office.

We're caught between a rock and a hard place," she said. "The real estate market has collapsed and we have no cash."

"It left us without any income," she said.

Retired Interior Designer: 'I've Been Robbed...Who's Helping?'

Sherry Maccabee of San Francisco is a retired interior designer and had no plans to start a new career in real estate, but when she found out her retirement savings were wiped out, she said she had little choice.

"It was total shock and disbelief... having that reality seep in," Maccabee told ABC News. "I was planning to use [the money] to live. I'm 57 years old. I'm not getting any younger. Its part of my retirement money. I was planning on having a cushion."

More shocking than her loss, Maccabee said, was what she called the government's "assisted robbery," citing the reported failure of the SEC to thoroughly investigate Madoff.

"I was brought up to believe that you can trust the government most of the time," she said. "Then you find out you've been robbed... They fell down on the job.

"My real question is, I've got a problem. I've been robbed. I need to go to my government for help. Who's helping?"

Until the answer comes, Maccabee is heading back to the work force, like so many other Americans, trying to make up a little for what was lost.