Madoff victims skeptical about $7B returned

December 17, 2010 11:11:35 PM PST
The widow of a Florida philanthropist says she will gave back more than $7 billion that her husband made in Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme. That could be good news for some investors, who lost a fortune, but several Bay Area victims of the scheme, question whether or not they'll ever see a dime.

Cliff Bernie now owns the Burlingame fabrics business his father started in 1957, Norman S. Bernie Company. When his dad died five years ago, he and his brother split the investment his parents made with Bernard Madoff 25 years ago.

"My father would have gone back there with a 9-iron," he said.

Bernie's loss on paper was about $1.75 million; in real dollars it was more like $700,000 and he's gotten back $500,000 of that. His brother lost more.

Madoff is serving a 150-year prison sentence. On Friday, the widow of his friend Jeffry Picower returned $7.2 billion reaped from Madoff's Ponzi scheme.

Bernie doesn't expect he or his brother will ever see more of their lost money, but hopes someone will.

"The more they can get back, the better it is for investors who are out a lot or out of everything," he said.

Berkeley residents Mark Rosenberg and Elizabeth Ennis lost personal accounts worth $450,000 they had saved for retirement. They got back their $25,000 investment in an IRA they thought was worth $170,000. They're angry with the system set up to reimburse Madoff investors and they're afraid they might end up owing money they took out -- money they thought was their honest earnings.

"The Securities Investment Protection Corporation is out to protect themselves. They are not protecting specially the small investors," Ennis said.

Peninsula attorney Nancy Feinman has interviewed Madoff in person.

"It's a tremendous settlement. Kudos to the U.S. attorneys and the bankruptcy trustee and we look forward to our cases, and getting more money for our victims, "she said.