SCOTT SIMON, host:
The Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme is so huge, it's often hard to understand. One man who testified before the House Financial Services Committee hearing earlier this month may help us understand what it means in real lives. Allan Goldstein is 76 years old. He and his wife of 52 years, Ruth, are retired in upstate New York.
Mr. Goldstein was in the garment industry in Manhattan. He did well, and wanted to invest conservatively, but wisely, and he was led to Madoff Securities. Mr. Goldstein has not spoken to the press since his testimony. He joins us now from the studios of WAMC in Albany, New York. Mr. Goldstein, thanks so much for being with us.
Mr. ALLAN GOLDSTEIN (Retired Garment Industry Worker): My pleasure, and good morning.
SIMON: And let me just ask you straight out, I know you had a few million before this happened, how much are you left with now?
Mr. GOLDSTEIN: Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I had - I used up all my assets over the years to let my Madoff account grow so I could retire with a decent income from the Madoff account. So I had no assets left except - I've cashed in my life insurance policies. I'm having trouble paying my mortgage. My children are helping me out. My house is up for sale, and that's where we are.
SIMON: You're 76 years old, and your house is up for sale.
Mr. GOLDSTEIN: Yeah. I'm looking for a job. How do you like that? I have to buy food and car and gasoline and things like that. I can't keep taking money from my children.
SIMON: And you draw Social Security?
Mr. GOLDTEIN: Yes, I draw. My wife and I both draw Social Security. Between the two of us, I think it's about $22,000 a year pre-tax.
SIMON: How did you become a success in the garment business? What did you begin with?
Mr. GOLDSTEIN: I sold textiles to garment manufacturers. I started off with a job, I was paid $200 a month and through hard work, being aggressive, and knowing what I was doing, I was able to advance myself and save some money. And we started this business with the monies we saved. I was working six days a week, 12 hours a day, and we made a success out of the business.
SIMON: Boy, I hate to sit here and recount the problems you're having, but you can't hold on to your house, you have no income except for what your children give you.
Mr. GOLDSTEIN: Right, it's a horrible situation. And I have to tell you that I receive emails every day from - there are so many, many people in the same position I'm in, that it's heartbreaking, heartbreaking. I have my health, and my wife is healthy, and she's having a difficult time getting through this, but we'll get through this somehow. But there are people out there who are suffering horrendously. It's a terrible, terrible situation.
SIMON: What are your feelings towards Bernie Madoff? Did you ever meet him?
Mr. GOLDSTEIN: I never met him. I never had any contact with him. And I said this to the House Committee and I'll say it on the radio that the first three days, four days, I don't remember, I was just filled with anger because I was in shock. I lost all my money. I didn't know what to do or where to turn. And I realized that I couldn't go on and live my life consumed with anger. So right now I really don't care about Bernie Madoff. I don't care if he goes to jail. I don't care if he stays out of jail. It's not going to improve my life one way or the other, so I really don't care.
SIMON: Do you think there are regulatory agencies who should have been more vigilant?
Mr. GOLDSTEIN: I think the regulatory agencies that were paid from my tax dollars and other people's tax dollars have failed us. And I believe it's more than a failure, I believe they were complicit in this. There were so many red flags, so many warning signals, so many letters written about this, and they did nothing.
SIMON: Do you think there were ways in which you should have been more vigilant or at least skeptical about all the good news you got?
Mr. GOLDSTEIN: Honestly, no. I said many, many times I'm not comfortable having all my money in one place. But if it's not broken how can I fix it? It was no, not one inkling of anything wrong. The statements came every month. Any monies I needed to live on that I withdrew were taken out with no problem. They were sent to me. And beside myself, who was a small investor, there were banks, there were hedge funds who put billions of dollars into this man. They must have done some due diligence - and they also invested their money.
SIMON: How did you hear about Bernie Madoff? How did you begin investing with him?
Mr. GOLDSTEIN: Many years ago I had money invested with an investment counselor, and also money invested in money market funds because I just tried to be as prudent with my money as possible. And my accountant at that point had told me to - I should put some money with Madoff whose returns were 10 to 12 percent in good years and bad years, very prudent, very safe.
SIMON: The statements that you got every month turned out to be just moonshine and nonsense?
Mr. GOLDSTEIN: Statements I got every month, from what we've been learning, were just fabricated statements. It seems that he didn't make any of these trades. It was just something computer generated - I don't know how they did this.
SIMON: Mm hmm. As we know now, of course, the money wasn't there, but on the other hand, on those occasions that you needed to tap into the fund, he did have enough for you.
Mr. GOLDSTEIN: Absolutely.
SIMON: And that turns out to be, as we know now, I guess, money from people who thought you were doing so well, they'd invest with it.
Mr. GOLDSTEIN: Right, exactly. That's what I think.
SIMON: Mr. Goldstein, I think somebody would really benefit from hiring you. I know it's...
Mr. GOLDSTEIN: Well, thank you very much. I ran a business for many years, I could run an office, and I know my way around and possibly something good will happen out of this.
SIMON: Well, it's been awfully good to for you to speak with us. Thank you so much.
Mr. GOLDSTEIN: And I thank you for your time and thank you.
SIMON: Allan Goldstein, who was an investor with Bernard Madoff, joining us from Albany in New York.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.