NEW YORK — The scope of Bernard Madoff’s alleged fraud is detailed in 162 pages of minuscule type — a list of the disgraced money manager’s once-trusting customers, including a bevy of the rich, famous and powerful.
In between, though, are all the others — the names you’ve never heard. A retired teacher from the San Francisco Bay area. An emergency room doctor in Oregon. A carpenter from upstate New York. Thousands of mostly ordinary people, until now all but overlooked. Their voices reveal the true toll of Madoff’s scheme, one that cannot be measured in dollars alone.
To do so, would overlook the anger, despair and silent shame they share.
“My wife says, ‘keep yourself busy and get your mind off it,’ ” said Alan English, a Florida business owner whose life savings were lost to Madoff. “But how can I take my mind off something that has destroyed my whole life?”
English is one of thousands of Madoff customers whose names were made public late Wednesday in a filing with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan, and serves as testament to the sweeping nature of Madoff’s alleged $50 billion fraud.
Manatee County residents Paul and Turbi Smilow lost money to Madoff’s alleged scheme.
“The account was in her name,” Paul Smilow said Thursday. “What can one say? Life goes on. We were with him for a very long time. He was allegedly a reliable and upstanding citizen and was making money for a lot of people.”
He said the couple lost a lot, but not as much as many others.
“It was substantial,” he said. “We were really at the very low end of the frenzy.”
The list includes scores of famous names, from Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax, to World Trade Center developer Larry Silverstein to actor John Malkovich and CNN host Larry King.
But on a list with 13,000 entries, they are the exceptions. Run a finger down the list and what’s most noteworthy is that so many of the names are people who might be just another neighbor or co-worker or friend.
They are people like Dr. Bonnie Sidoff, 56, an emergency room physician in West Linn, Ore. Years ago, her mother told her if she ever wanted to invest some money, she couldn’t do much better than Bernie Madoff. Evelyn Rosen had never met Madoff personally, but in her circle of Florida country club friends, having money with the New Yorker was “considered an honor,” Sidoff said Thursday.
So when Rosen died in April 2006 at the age of 80, her daughter left the $100,000 or so in her account with Madoff. Not only that, she took the money her mother left her in other accounts and invested that with Madoff.
In December, the day before the Madoff scandal broke, Sidoff and her husband Mike, both emergency room doctors, wired another $150,000 for Madoff to invest. The day after they learned the devastating news, the couple received a letter confirming the deposit.
“That was pretty heartbreaking,” Sidoff said.
An analysis of the list shows that the people come from 44 states and at least 40 countries, from the Cayman Islands to Kenya to Switzerland. Florida has nearly 2,200 entries.
Not everyone on the list was a Madoff victim; some ended up in the document simply because they are lawyers or accountants whose clients are connected to Madoff, for example. Some had no dealings with Madoff whatsoever. But the sheer volume of the list demonstrates the reach of Madoff’s world.
Bob Finkin, a lawyer from Queens, is one of the victims.
Finkin, who is 80, said he lost $350,000 of his own money with Madoff. But his family’s foundation lost nearly $2.5 million, money that would’ve been used to support drug rehabilitation and mental health programs.
As a young lawyer, Finkin said he was introduced to Madoff in 1966 by a wealthy friend at a gathering at a local hospital.
Finkin’s investment started out with $10,000, but then over the years “it grew, grew, grew.” Seeing his personal investment’s success, Finkin decided to entrust the family foundation to Madoff. As recently as August, he gave Madoff an additional $500,000 in foundation money to invest.
“And along the way, we felt comfortable with him,” he said. “I laugh at it.”
Herald staff writer Brian Neill contributed to this report.