The Victims Strike Back
A woman reduced to dumpster-diving, a brother who can no longer pay for his mentally disabled twin’s medical care, and more Madoff victims share their stories.
Dominic Ambrosino and Ronnie Sue Ambrosino
As a retired New York City Correction Officer, I am very familiar with the inside of a courtroom. However, I never in my wildest dreams ever expected to be sitting in one as a victim of an indescribably heinous crime—[…] That dream came true on March 12 as I watched Bernie Madoff stand and be cuffed. However, the dream really started as a nightmare on December 11. I can remember the exact second my wife told me the news…The fallout from having your entire life savings drop right out from under your nose is truly like nothing you can ever describe. […]
“Every time he cashed a check and paid for his family's decadent lifestyle, he killed dreams…I only hope that his prison sentence is long enough so that his jail cell becomes his coffin.”
I don't know if anyone other than another victim can explain what the less obvious effects are, how every decision directly and indirectly hinged on the fact that we had the security of our savings. When I was able to leave the job, we bought a motor home to travel the country. We took out a mortgage since it was better to keep our savings in Madoff. We sold the house my wife lived in for 27 years and also put all those profits—and they were high—into our Madoff account. We trusted that the savings and planning would see us through our retirement. We had ideas of traveling the country. It all stopped abruptly on December 11. As a result, we are left with no permanent house, a depreciating motor home, we are upside down on the loan and an income from my pension that is our life. This pension used to be perceived as spending money before December 11, and now although it doesn't cover our monthly expenses, we rely on it fully. It is all we have. […] The most devastating to us is we lost our freedom. We lost the ability to share our life every day as we explore the country every day. We lost the time to hold hands as we walked. As they say in the commercial, this is priceless.
I am a 61-year-old widow and I am now working full-time. I have done many things to survive since December 11, including selling a lot of my possessions and working three jobs at the same time. I have lost a home that my husband and I had owned for 25 years because of this theft. […]
It pains me so much to remember my husband getting up in the middle of the night. He was a very fine physician. He would get up in the middle of the night year after year in all kinds of weather to go to the hospital to save someone's life in rain, ice, and snow. He would save someone's life so that Bernie Madoff could buy his wife another fancy Cartier watch. […]
Goodness in people is something that you, Mr. Madoff, have been blind to your whole life, and that goodness is better than all the yachts and all the French homes in all the world put together.
It has been well chronicled that Madoff did not limit his treachery to a few. He stole from the rich, he stole from the poor and he stole from the in-between. He had no boundaries. He stole from individuals as well as charitable organizations of all types and denominations. […]
Madoff has shown no remorse. Please do not confuse his prepared statement as remorse. His crime was premeditated and calculated. He was attempting to scam investors only days before his arrest. […]
He cheated his victims out of their money so that he and his wife Ruth and their two sons could live a life of luxury beyond belief. This life is normally reserved for royalty, not for common thieves. Your Honor, we implore you to give him the maximum sentence at a maximum prison for this evil lowlife. […]
I have a quotation from my wife, since only one of us could speak. She wants to say: "I cry every day when I see the look of pain and despair in my husband's eyes. I cry for the life we once had before that monster took it away. Our two sons and daughter-in-law have rallied with constant love and support. You, on the other hand, Mr. Madoff, have two sons that despise you. Your wife, rightfully so, has been vilified and shunned by her friends in the community. You have left your children a legacy of shame. I have a marriage made in heaven. You have a marriage made in hell, and that is where you, Mr. Madoff, are going to return. May God spare you no mercy."
I am so thankful that my father died two years ago and was spared from having to live in his terminal condition without the money to provide him 24/7 health care which allowed him to die with indignity. […]
Please, your Honor, do not fail us.
He killed my spirit and shattered my dreams. He destroyed my trust in people. He destroyed my life, and I have no other assets.
Schwartz, 33, lost his family’s trust fund, which was used to care for his mentally disabled brother.
Your Honor, part of the trust fund wasn't set aside for a house in the Hamptons, a large yacht or box seat to the Mets. No, part of that money was set aside to take care of my twin brother who is mentally disabled, who at 33, he lives at home with my parents and will need care and supervision for the rest of his life. […]
Every time he cashed a check and paid for his family's decadent lifestyle, he killed dreams…I only hope that his prison sentence is long enough so that his jail cell becomes his coffin. Thank you.
The man sitting in this courtroom robbed me. In an instant his words and deeds beat me to near senselessness. He discarded me like roadkill. Victims became the byproduct of his greed. We are what is left over, the remnants of stunning indifference and that of politicians and bureaucrats. Six months have passed. I manage on food stamps. At the end of the month I sometimes scavage in dumpsters. […]
By self-admission, this thief among us knew his victims were facing a kind of death at his hands, yet he continued to play with us as a cat would with a mouse. What shall be the punishment for such a man? What sentence? Carry the burden we carry, feel his shame, humiliation and isolation as I do. Feel it each day wherever you are until life ends… Forgiveness for now, it will have to come from someone other than me.
I was introduced to Bernard Madoff 21 years ago at a business meeting. At the time I was the chief financial officer of Hadassah, a charitable women's organization. I now view that day as perhaps the unluckiest day of my life because of the many events set into motion that would eventually have the most profound and devastating effect on me, my husband, my child, my parents, my in-laws and all those who depended upon us for their liveliness. […]
My husband and I are now both in our 60s and have been married for 37 years. We have saved for most of our lives by living beneath our means in order to provide for our retirement. This past Thursday at 2 o'clock my husband and I sold our home of 20 years. People are always asking how much did we lose? My reply is that when you lose everything, it really doesn't matter because you have nothing left, and we have lost everything…The monster who visited me was true, a reality. […]
When Madoff entered his plea of guilty [on March 12], I began to speak out to the media, and the helpless and hopeless feelings began to retreat and I began to feel empowered. It came together for me while being interviewed by Katie Couric. She asked me wasn't I embarrassed being a CPA losing all my money? At that moment I realized and responded no, I am not embarrassed because I did not lose my money. My money was stolen from me. Ms. Couric said to me you sound angry, and I said yes, you're right. When someone steals from you, you get angry. That was the beginning of my healing process. I felt it was important for somebody who as personally acquainted with Madoff to speak. My family and I are not anonymous people to him. He knows my husband's name is Rob and my son's name is Eric. In fact, Eric worked for him one summer while in college many years ago. Eric would continue to call him over the years to ask for his advice and input. Eric entrusted him with his money that he worked and saved. a few months before all this happened Eric had spoken to him and thanked him for doing such a good job. […]
All of us from our earliest ages remember those times when the terror, the monsters and goblins would come visit us in those dark hours. Eventually we would be so frightened that we would awake sometimes calling out to our parents because of the fear. It was calming to have our parents remind us it was only a dream. As we got older, we could wake ourselves and self-assure ourselves it was only a dream. That terror, that monster, that horror, that beast has a name to me, and it is Bernard L. Madoff. I will now attempt to explain to you the nature of this beast who I called Madoff.
He walks among us. He dresses like us. He drives and eats and drinks and speaks. Under the façade there is truly a beast. He is a beast that has stolen for his own needs the livelihoods, savings, lives, hopes and dreams and futures of others in total disregard. He has fed upon us to satisfy his own needs. No matter how much he takes and from whom he takes, he is never satisfied. He is an equal opportunity destroyer. […]
It is for this reason I am asking your Honor to keep him in a cage behind bars.