Madoff Friend Reflects On Loss
LIANE HANSEN, host:
From NPR News, this is WEEKEND EDITION. I'm Liane Hansen.
Tomorrow is judgment day for one of Wall Street's most brazen criminals. Bernard Madoff will leave his jail cell to hear his punishment for perpetrating a vast Ponzi scheme that robbed thousands of investors of their life savings. And his wife, Ruth, will hand over nearly $80 million worth of assets as part of a deal approved yesterday by a federal judge. She'll be left with $2.5 million.
In March, Mr. Madoff pleaded guilty to 11 counts of fraud, money laundering, perjury and theft. Among his many victims were some of his closest friends. Carmen Dell'Orefice was one of the few in the Madoff inner circle, as well as one of the many who lost her life savings to Bernard Madoff. She's a longtime supermodel, whom we've spoken to before on this program, and she's kind enough to join us today. Welcome back to the program, Carmen.
Ms. CARMEN DELL'OREFICE (Supermodel): Well, Liane, thank you so much for having me back, and I do want to assure you that I will survive and I am doing very well, in spite of Mr. Madoff's help or non-help.
HANSEN: Right. Financially, you mean.
Ms. DELL'OREFICE: Yeah. Yeah.
HANSEN: Yeah. But you were close friends with the Madoffs. You went to family gatherings and charity balls with your late boyfriend, Norman Levy.
Ms. DELL'OREFICE: Right. And, listen, I'm still trying to compute this - my personal experience. And what I'm reading in the newspaper and seeing on my computer and all the stories and all the storyline, all the indictments, I'm reading about another person, not the person that I had this experience with in friendship and changing my economic life over the 12 years I knew Bernie and Ruth. It's mindboggling, all the time that I had spent with Bernie and Ruth the way I did. It happened. Would I spend time with them now? Of course not.
HANSEN: Do you not feel betrayed, though, by someone that you became close to?
Ms. DELL'OREFICE: Betrayed is a strange word. I mean, I can't imagine how they are in their skin, so I really can't give you an opinion. I take the facts and take care of my own life. It's like sudden death. It's like being hit by a bus and you're dead. The money is gone and I will watch it unfold in the years to come. By the time the government figures out, you know, what they're going to do with all the people they have to help.
HANSEN: Knowing that you were so close to the family for so long, have you learned anything these past few months about Ruth's possible involvement?
Ms. DELL'OREFICE: I certainly haven't, but, you know, when people have been married for a long, long time, the wife is the last person to know the husband had an affair or is having an affair, and they sleep in the same bed. I mean, Ruth never let Bernie out of her sight, but that didn't mean that she knew the intricacies and the absoluteness of what he was doing.
HANSEN: You're doing fine, you said.
Ms. DELL'OREFICE: Yes.
Ms. DELL'OREFICE: Do I wish that I had my life savings there as a cushion? Sure. Of course, my daughters wouldn't have to work forever. You know, all that one builds up for one's old age and me and my - I'm 78, so for me it's my older old age - but I never put my lifestyle and what I need to live on in anyone else's hands but mine. So that's my responsibility. Does that make sense?
HANSEN: It does make sense. It makes a lot of sense. And this is, I realize, how emotionally tough this is for you. I mean…
Ms. DELL'OREFICE: Thank you for knowing that, because it's murder. It's like murder. It's just the way I feel, you see. But it's not about money, but it's about my own self-confidence on what judgment didn't I exercise and what did I miss? And it really shook my self-esteem for quite a long time. I don't need much in life, but I need to know that I'm in control of myself and my choices. And how I end up feeling is also my own choice.
HANSEN: Carmen Dell'Orefice is a longtime supermodel. She lost much of her net worth in the Madoff Ponzi scheme, and she joined us from New York. Thank you so much for talking to us about such an emotional subject and good luck to you.
Ms. DELL'OREFICE: Thank you so much, and good luck to everyone out there in their ongoing lives. It's going to be tough.