March 12, 2009 / 6:19 PM / 10 years ago

Bamboozled Madoff victims feel anger, bitterness

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Shattered victims of Bernard Madoff said that watching the criminal financier go to prison in handcuffs on Thursday brought only a fleeting sense of satisfaction that scarcely changed their feelings of bitterness and betrayal.

Madoff, who pleaded guilty to fraud and other criminal charges in Manhattan federal court, left thousands of victims robbed of their life savings.

Worried about their future and wondering how Madoff managed to pull off the largest financial fraud in Wall Street history, several victims emerged from the U.S. District Courthouse in downtown Manhattan voicing their fears and frustrations.

“It’s a Pyrrhic, bittersweet victory,” said Miriam Siegman, 65, of New York City, who raised a clenched fist as Madoff’s court appearance ended. A retired consultant, she said she had lost her life savings to Madoff’s fraudulent investments and now receives food stamps.

“I have no one to help me. That he’s in jail doesn’t change that,” she said. “I still have the rest of my life to live, or try to live, in incredible stress and in total poverty. He took everything.”

Outside the courthouse, Madoff’s victims were met by reporters and photographers from around the world, anxious to hear what they felt when they saw Madoff, some for the first time since his arrest in December, others for the first time ever. Many who invested with Madoff had never met him.

“I wanted him to see some of the faces of those whose lives he destroyed, not that it would have made any difference,” said Cynthia Friedman, 59, of Jericho, New York. She and her husband said they lost $3 million to Madoff.

Burt Ross, 65, of Englewood, New Jersey, said he considers himself a survivor and not a victim of Madoff’s scheme after losing $5 million.

Trying to describe how he still wakes up each morning to see his wife beside him, Ross’ voice broke and he paused for several seconds to blink back tears and regain his composure.

“The things that matter, I have, and he can’t take them away,” Ross said.

Brad Friedman, an attorney representing about a hundred of Madoff’s victims, said his clients were seeking to recover at least some of their money from members of Madoff’s family.

“We’re going to go after them. This is not over by a long shot,” he said.

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