Future brighter for San Mateo Madoff victim

June 29, 2009 6:08:18 PM PDT
Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme drained away life savings and left some on the brink of bankruptcy. A Peninsula man almost lost the family business when Madoff's scheme collapsed.

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The Norman Bernie Fabric Company, next to Highway 101 in San Mateo, has been in business for more than 50 years, but for the past six months it appeared it wouldn't make it to 51. Now, the future seems a bit brighter, while the anger at Bernie Madoff is burning brighter.

"I would say things have been downscaled from red alert to orange alert. Things are still precarious," said Cliff Bernie.

Bernie's parents invested $200,000 with Madoff 20 years ago and watched it supposedly grow to $1.7 million. Then on December 11th of last year, Bernie and his family found out it was all gone.

Bernief has one question for Madoff:

"What were you thinking? Clearly I would like to know what goes on in the mind of a sociopath. See if I can get some kind of a cogent answer. But I doubt I could, there wouldn't be anything coming out him other then B.S.," he said.

Shortly after finding out he was out his life's savings, Bernie laid off a man who had worked at his business for 30 years and was prepared to sell the 50-year-old family business.

"It's my only source of income, obviously because the investment I had from Madoff is gone and we are waiting for recourse," said Bernie.

All is not necessarily lost forever for him. He and many other investors can look at a maximum of $500,000 from the Securities Investor Protection Corporation, or SIPC, which has already committed about $100 million to victims of Madoff's scam. He can also seek relief on taxes he's paid on what turned out to be non-existent dividends and from the sale of Madoff's assets.

Bernie feels there are others who should also be paying for this crime.

"People just wonder howcome it's only Madoff who has fallen on his sword; there are other family members who must have known about it, there are employees who must have known about it, what about SEC people who lacked accountability and due diligence," he said.

If you qualify to file with the SIPC for some of that money, the deadline is Thursday.

Bernie's reaction to the sentencing was that he wishes Madoff was younger so that he could spend more time in prison.

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