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Bernie’s Brooklyn victims

The Brooklyn Paper
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Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme touched people all over the world — from celebrities to schools to saints to Smartmom.

Yes, our columnist Louise Crawford’s dad was one of the more than 13,000 names on the just-released list of victims of the December collapse of Madoff’s house of cards.

Sports-team owners, media moguls and major financial institutions were some of the first Madoff investors to have their vast losses exposed after the scheme collapsed. But last week, the names and addresses of more than 13,500 Madoff casualties were published, and the list revealed that dozens of Brooklynites — many of them accustomed to a comfortable, but not opulent lifestyle — had been wounded if not wiped out by the magnificent deception.

Crawford’s dad died in September. Until then, his finances had been a mystery, but the family understood that his estate would be split among Crawford, her sister and her stepmother — leaving Crawford an expected windfall of several hundred thousand dollars.

Not anymore.

“It affected my fantasy of the future,” she said. “That money was never mine, but for three months in the back of my mind, I felt for the first time that there was a cushion.

“We live pretty close to the edge for a couple of Park Slopers,” the writer and mother of two added.

The experience has been a crash course in personal financial planning for Crawford who is urging friends to overcome their intimidation or boredom of money management.

“You have to be conversant. You can’t be afraid to look at your bank account. You can’t take a leap of faith and hope it’s going to work out,” she said.

After years of posting impressive returns, Madoff’s $50-billion investment firm shimmered away like a cartoon mirage, possibly the largest Ponzi scheme in history. Under the scam, money was never actually invested in the stock market, Instead, new funds from the ever-growing client list were used to pay earlier investors — a hustle that failed when too many skittish account holders tried to withdraw their money amid the larger Wall Street meltdown.

“We’re a small fry in the whole thing,” said one married woman, an artist, in her forties, who spoke on the condition that The Brooklyn Paper withhold her name as well as her husband’s. “We lost $300,000, but it was everything. The money gave us stability.”

The seductive power of the Madoff moneymaking machine discouraged clients from wondering how he could so consistently generate earnings, in bull markets and in bear ones.

“We never questioned the returns,” said the artist, who estimated that she and her husband pulled in $30,000 a year from Madoff, whose firm “allowed” the couple to invest because wealthier relatives already had accounts.

“When things are going well, you never ask why.”

Now they’ve abandoned their dream to sell their home in the Brownstone Belt and move upstate — which is just as well, because they would have invested their profits with Madoff.

The collapse not only claimed conventional investors.

The Redemptorists, a Catholic priestly order with a presence at the striking Our Lady of Perpetual Help basilica and school on 59th Street, is grappling with an unspecified loss that may force it to reduce or eliminate some programs, including Catholic school scholarships.

“It is with sadness in their hearts that the Redemptorists must acknowledge that some of the good works and ministries of the Province may now be reduced, suspended or cancelled due to the loss of the funds invested with Bernie Madoff Investment Securities,” said a statement from the order’s spokeswoman Marion Lunt.

Similarly, Brooklyn College’s foundation, for instance, told The Paper that it lost $336,000, money that had endowed one scholarship at the Flatbush campus.

And the damage even extends to the diamond — the baseball one, that is. One of the most-prominent victims was the Wilpon family, which owns the New York Mets and, more important, the Brooklyn Cyclones. The family has said that the minor league team will not affected by the vanished investments.

Updated 5:11 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Luquerd Up from South Brooklyn says:
God help us, is there only one family in Brooklyn affected by the Madoff mess?
Feb. 12, 2009, 3:48 am
Archie from Bklyn says:
Luquerd Up from South Brooklyn says: "God help us, is there only one family in Brooklyn affected by the Madoff mess?"

Did it SAY that? Get real. This family obviously is covered b/c
(1) the woman writes for the Bk Paper, her column is pretty self-revelatory anyway, and media often use staff (etc.) as examples, for whatever reason.
(2) she's willing to discuss this -- possibly because it involved loss of a moderate "extra," not of bigtime or viewed-as-essential money.
Whereas many people would NOT be happy to chat with media about money loss -- out of embarrassment, and-or b/c they lost serious wealth, with devastating effects.
(3) during the recent spate of anti-Smartmom "discussions," some dimwit INTRODUCED this topic - by snarking that SMom was a "trustafarian" who lost money via Madoff. (This smelled of personal malice as well as irrelevance: To get the info, the dimwit had to find & search a huge PDF list of Madoff-losers, and know this woman's dad's name.)
That claim probably got around among anti-SMers -- but this story addresses and corrects it.

If you're interested in who lost what, that Madoff-victim list is online. But you can find it yourself. (Maybe arrange to write a special feature for the Bk Paper - and see how private-person victims react when you ask them to discuss their finances ...)
Feb. 12, 2009, 11:56 am
Not Ann Landers from Peoples Republic of Park Slope says:
Interesting story.
The loss of a true loved one - now this. Tragic. Absolutely a lot of anguish, here.
But is it meant for a public stage, albeit a small community weekly with an internet presence? There's an interesting discussion point with a larger reach - how much of one's life story does one want to put online? How does it affect the ones closest to you? I don't know ... it seems that most keep those kinds of thoughts within a small family group.
Feb. 12, 2009, 12:58 pm
Bernette Rudolph from Park Slope says:
Hi I am also a small Madoff investor. WNYC aired my story on Wed's "all things considered" see NPR.org . Am also a nieghbor of Louise Crawford.
Feb. 12, 2009, 6:31 pm
Bernette Rudolph from Park Slope says:
Tha Madoff story and Bernette Rudolph can be seen on the THURSDAY "all Things considered"
on NPR.org....correed information.
Feb. 12, 2009, 6:40 pm
newsie from Slope says:
Not Ann Landers from Park Slope says - 'But is it meant for a public stage, albeit a small community weekly with an internet presence? ... how much of one's life story does one want to put online? How does it affect the ones closest to you? I don't know ... it seems that most keep those kinds of thoughts within a small family group.'

Why isn't it meant for a public stage? This story is about local impact of the Madoff thing, on two individuals plus two organizations. 'Small community' cover lots of stuff from a more personal angle; there's nothing tasteless or outre' here; and the one named individual (Crawford) is lucky enough NOT to have lost life savings or be in dire straits as a result, which might embarrass the family.
So I don't get what the problem is.
Feb. 12, 2009, 7:22 pm
Pacholo from Red Hook says:
You guys outed Smartmom like MLB outed A-Rod. I want all the names!
Feb. 12, 2009, 10:35 pm
Allan from Park Slope says:
I admire the candor of all in this story, even of those who spoke anonymously.

Even if we're not personally involved - the Madoff scam will have a big impact on institutions, nonprofits, and families, in ways we can't yet know. It also adds more crap to a crappy economy, where many people are struggling with altered life plans and grave financial anxieties, or worse - yes! even in the Slope!

I'm sure that none of those interviewed spoke without careful thought, and their words remind us that 'it can happen here,' no matter where 'here' is. It's _absurd_ to castigate any of them for discussing their 'abandoned hopes' or loss of financial cushion - unless you're crazy enough to equate money with virtue, and view money loss as a reason for personal shame.
Feb. 12, 2009, 11:18 pm
Leon Freilich from Park Slope says:
Bernie Madoff broke the bank

But that was just the start;

He then went on to cruelly smash

Many an innocent heart.
Feb. 16, 2009, 2:55 pm

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