The Other, Noncelebrity, Madoff Investors When money manager Bernard Madoff was arrested in December for allegedly running what amounted to a Ponzi scheme with his clients' money, many of those identified as investors were rich and famous. But a list released last week makes clear that many of Madoff's other investors were hardly wealthy.
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The Other, Noncelebrity, Madoff Investors

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The Other, Noncelebrity, Madoff Investors

The Other, Noncelebrity, Madoff Investors

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel. Massachusetts securities regulators have filed a new complaint in the case of Bernard Madoff. They say Madoff's wife withdrew more than $15 million from a brokerage account days before her husband's arrest in December.

Bernard Madoff was part-owner of the firm that managed that account. He's been accused of running an investment company that amounted to a giant Ponzi scheme.

Last week a list with the names of all his investors was released in bankruptcy court. That list included many people who are rich and powerful but also a lot of people who are neither. NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.

Ms. BERNETTE RUDOLPH: My studio is back here.

JIM ZARROLI: Bernard Madoff strides down the hallway of her Brooklyn apartment into her sunny, cluttered studio. Rudolph has been artist for most of her 80 years. She's an unconventional woman who's died her short hair purple. She's also very serious about her work. These days she's tirelessly promoting an upcoming gallery show.

Ms. RUDOLPH: Here's a card…

ZARROLI: When Rudolph learned that she'd lost her nest egg in the Madoff scandal, her main worry was whether she could keep her apartment.

Ms. RUDOLPH: My work is in my home. I get up in the middle of the night, go into my studio. I work early in the morning. I work all day long, and my work and I are one and the same.

ZARROLI: She soon figured she could keep her apartment, but her finances have become a lot more tenuous. Fifteen years ago, Rudolph put $50,000 in Madoff's firm on the advice of friends who knew him. Over time, her investment appeared to quadruple in value. She got a small income that allowed her to pursue art full-time.

Ms. RUDOLPH: So it grew considerably. I mean, that's why everybody went into it, because it was no questions asked. You wanted money, you got it.

ZARROLI: How much did you understand about where the Madoff money was coming from?

Ms. RUDOLPH: I had no idea. I am not a money person. I mean, I don't know a bear from a bull or, you know, the whole thing. I just don't know. I was never interested. Now I read the business section every day of the New York Times, and I saved all the Madoff articles. I have a box full like this.

ZARROLI: Now Rudolph can no longer give money to her kids when they need it. Even worse, she can't support herself as an artist. She can't rent gallery space or pay for flyers to promote her work.

Ms. RUDOLPH: The biggest loss is money to keep my art going because that's my life's work.

ZARROLI: How do you feel about Bernie Madoff today?

Ms. RUDOLPH: He should be strung up. Yeah, I think that he should pay somehow for pulling the wool over so many people's eyes.

ZARROLI: For his victims, Bernie Madoff's meltdown has been like an earthquake, disrupting their lives with a suddenness they're still adjusting to.

Unidentified Woman #1: (Unintelligible).

Unidentified Woman #2: (Unintelligible).

ZARROLI: An hour away in a woodsy subdivision in Connecticut, Patricia Rafferty Brown has gathered her family around her kitchen table. Brown's late father owned his own business, a hat factory, and Madoff's father-in-law was his accountant. Over the years, the family invested with Madoff's firm, a little at first, then more and more. Brown gave him all the life insurance money she got after her husband died. She asked few questions, and today Brown can't help but laugh a little at how trusting she was.

Ms. PATRICIA RAFFERTY BROWN: My brother-in-law here in Danbury is my accountant, CPA, and every year when I'd bring in my tax information he's like: Who is this guy? He's like: How does he keep making this money? And I'm there: I don't know, here's the reports. And he's like: I don't know, you'd better watch out. And I go: Oh, Joe, it's okay. You know. He hasn't said I told you so, but I know that's what he's thinking.

ZARROLI: But there's nothing funny about what's happened to her. Her standard of living has plummeted. She has to cut corners, and she can't turn to family for help because they invested with Madoff too.

Her elderly mother has had to give up her rented house and move in with her. Her 70-year-old brother, Don Rafferty, lost most of his savings. His wife, Judy, has taken a full-time job.

Ms. BROWN: And the sad part of it is, is that we're at the later stage of life, and we're not going to make up that income. This was savings that we put in. Every single time we had an opportunity, we'd throw it in there, and now it's gone.

ZARROLI: Last week, whistleblower Harry Markopolos told a congressional committee how he'd spent years warning the Securities and Exchange Commission that Madoff was running a house of cards. Don Rafferty watched the entire hearing.

Mr. DON RAFFERTY: The SEC - I think, you know, the government agency owes the people money because they should have picked this up. This wasn't like it was last month. I mean, this is ridiculous that everybody got away with this for so long.

ZARROLI: But the odds of getting much money back seem slim. The family talked to a lawyer, but he wanted too much money to take their case. They may get something small out of the liquidation of Madoff's holdings, but they're not sure when. Like Madoff's other investors, the Raffertys may well walk away with nothing, nothing except some painful lessons about trust and betrayal and how quickly life can change. Jim Zarroli, NPR News.

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