Madoff victims sound off ahead of sentencing
While many of Bernie Madoff's victims write they cannot afford to buy a ticket and fly to New York for the June 29 sentencing hearing, you can get an idea of what they would say in a filing by federal prosecutors with U.S. District Judge Denny Chin.
You can read the tragic stories and punishment wishes of 113 Madoff victims at The Wall Street Journal, where the stories are posted in three packs of PDFs. Identifying information is blocked out, so no names of victims can be found.
The most graphic punishment wish from one victim, could be a popular clip on YouTube: "He should be strapped into a Six Flags Stunt Man Drop, in a tuxedo, for 5 hours per day, on television. Between "rides" he should pick up garbage in the park, also on Television. He should only be allowed to eat greasy foods that are likely to make him puke often."
Another invoked Martha Stewart in asking for stiff punishments and talking about the victim's current lifestyle: "You throw Martha Stewart in jail for trying to avoid losses in the stock market and make her pay. You should throw the book at this criminal and make him pay in spades. . . . He lived his life in luxury for years and years knowing full well he was scamming those people who trusted him with their life savings, like my friend. He lived the good life, while my friend suffers by having to sell her house at a loss, and live off food stamps now. She is in her 80s and worked her whole life and saved every dime only to have this man live a high-flying lifestyle she will never be able to live."
As you read through the letters, you find stories of personal ruin from people who put their entire life savings in the hands of Bernie Madoff or one of his feeder funds. Many of the emails are brief comments about the type of punishment Madoff and his family should face, but some are heart-wrenching stories of families that lost generations of savings.
For example, one family saved with Madoff for over 25 years and now has nothing: "There was never a sign of malfeasance. Never a bump in the road accessing the funds. The statements, as you know, were meticulous in their detail and depth. There was no visible sign of impropriety, only the apparent work of a master class investment manager. Who seemed so wise to the ways of Wall Street that it made no sense to try to manage a stock or investment portfolio on our own. . . . As I now approach retirement after a 40-year career as a broadcast executive and media consultant, I find myself without a penny of savings for us to continue to live on, a home I cannot sell, and a son for whom all of this was about now unable to attend college because Madoff stole his college fund as surely as he stole our future."
Many want the entire Madoff family punished: "Every member of his family benefited from his scam and they too must be stripped of their ill-gotten gains. Madoff's wife did not work or contribute funds for her wonderful life . . . the children did work for the company and unless they are severely challenged must have had an idea of what was going on. No one outside the Madoff family's lives will ever be the same, why should theirs?"
What would you like to say to the judge before he makes his decision on Madoff's sentence?
Lita Epstein has written 25 books including Reading Financial Reports for Dummies.