Madoff victims invited to court hearing

March 6, 2009 6:24:59 PM PST
New York financier Bernard Madoff took steps on Friday indicating he may plead guilty next week, to charges of orchestrating the largest financial fraud in U.S. history.

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Madoff is accused of running a $50 billion Ponzi scheme, taking money from thousands of people, without ever investing a dime of it. On Friday Madoff waived his right to take his case to a grand jury, and a judge invited potential victims to a plea hearing, set for next Thursday.

Victims who wish to attend the hearing, can contact the U.S. Government at:

ABC7's Wayne Freedman spoke to several local victims. The list of victims in Northern California, alone, has 149 different names. However, they're not what you might expect. Some of them inherited money and others earned it. Others, yet served as investment counselors themselves. Some of them still hope to get their money back. Others have given up hope.

It appears that Bernie Madoff's living arrangements are about to change. On Friday night he remained under arrest high atop a $7 million New York City penthouse, but after a plea bargain next week in a federal court, his new digs are likely be much less comfortable.

"I joke with my friends and relatives and friends that I would like to see him in a cell with the Aryan Brotherhood," said Elizabeth Ennis, from Berkeley.

Ennis is an artist who has adopted a specifically anti-Madoff theme, since she and her husband lost $600,000 in the alleged Ponzi scheme.

"It was like our safety net," said Ennis.

Prosecutors say there were thousands of victims. Now, lawyers familiar with the case say Madoff will admit to his role in the biggest financial crime in American history. This plea deal does not specify how much time he would spend in jail, nor does it exclude the prosecution of Madoff's family or former associates. He might help his case by supplying information to help victims get their money back.

"It is incalculable what it has cost me. I don't know if I will recover. I will probably lose my house. I don't know," said Susan Letteer, from Mill Valley.

Letteer doesn't hold out much hope. Nor, does she focus her anger on Madoff, alone. She believes there is plenty of blame to go around, beginning with the Securities and Exchange Commission for investigating Madoff, and then declaring his firm to be reputable.

"I was never before one of these people who thought the government to be totally corrupt. There is corruption in government, but a whole agency being corrupt? One that is supposed to support our financial system? That's something new for me to think that," said Letteer.

There are so many victims in this case that the government has set up a special website to keep them informed. It is not up yet, but it will be soon and will be updated frequently.

Information for victims about the court proceedings: (Please check back next week for the lastest update.)

Any victim who wants to be heard in Thursday's proceeding will need to notify the government by Wednesday March 11th at 10:00 a.m. The internet address for victims to contact is:

Information for Madoff customers from the SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission)

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