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Burt Ross

Burt Ross

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Former Madoff Investor Burt Ross Reacts to SentencingMonday, June 29, 2009 PAUL KANGAS: The tentacles of Bernard Madoff's illegal financial dealings stretch around the world.

In Europe Spain's Banco Santander lost $3 billion.

Austria's bank Medici took a $2 billion hit, Dutch bank Fortis, a billion and a half dollars.

Britain's HSBC lost a billion.

Madoff's scam also made its way to Asia where Japan's Nomura Holdings lost $359 million and Singapore's Great Eastern Holding, $44 million.

In the Middle East, Phoenix Holdings of Israel lost $13 million and in South America, Peru's Credicorp is out $4.5 million thanks to Madoff.

SUZANNE PRATT: Joining me now with his thoughts on the Madoff verdict is former Madoff investor Burt Ross.

He was one of the nine victims chosen by the judge to speak at today's sentencing.

Ross is an attorney and former mayor of Fort Lee, New Jersey.

He lost millions with Madoff.

Burt, welcome to the program.


PRATT: I know it's been a frantic, hectic day for you.

Thank you for coming on.

Let me ask you if you'll begin by summarizing the statement that you made to the courtroom today.

ROSS: First of all, if anybody wants the full text of the statement, it's posted online on the Daily Beast.

The main point I made and the judge in his opinion concurred and that is that this was far more than just the theft of billions of dollars, even though that would have been far bad enough to warrant the penalty he got, but it had to do with the violation of trust.

And as the judge pointed out, this is the basis of our -- the foundation of our economy.

Also, the basis for emotions like love and he violated that trust and I think the judge was right on point in mentioning that.

PRATT: And, Burt, how did you feel to be chosen to read that statement? There were hundreds of other victims and you were picked.

How did you feel when you were reading it? ROSS: Well, actually I -- they allowed everybody who wanted to speak to speak.

There were only nine of us and I'm glad I had the opportunity to speak, because if nobody showed up and spoke, you would think it would be a victimless crime and it was anything but that.

It was very emotional for me.

I was talking about money that had been inherited from my parents and passed onto my children and it's one thing if money is stolen from you, but if you get something from your parents or your children have it and it's stolen, it's extremely painful.

It was an emotional experience for me, a very draining experience today.

PRATT: And what was your reaction to the 150 years when you heard the judge actually say that number? ROSS: I was not surprised, because his comments before handing down the sentence made me think that he was going to sentence Madoff to the maximum.

It was a sense of relief.

The judge made it clear that it was symbolic.

Obviously, there's very little difference from a practical standpoint if he was sentenced to 50 years or 150 years.

He's already 71 years old but symbolism is important in the law and I thought it was important.

I was gratified that the judge threw the book at him.

PRATT: And what did you make of the Madoff apology? Did you feel that it was sincere in any way? ROSS: It didn't strike me as that.

At one point, he referred to what he did as an error in judgment.

To me that's just sheer fantasy.

You know, an error in judgment is not something that you do in a premeditated, calculated manner for 20 years.

You also talked about the shame he felt in hurting the industry that he had helped build and he keeps talking about the industry and I don't think that is what this is about.

PRATT: If you had one piece of advice for other would-be investors, what would you tell them after the last nine months or so? ROSS: It's hard to put in one piece of advice.

I would say to be extremely careful to diversify and diversify in this case would be more than just with one individual, diversify your strategies, diversify your portfolio.

Fortunately, I did not have everything with Madoff but I had far too much.

PRATT: What's next for you? Where do things stand with SIPIC in terms of seeing any of your money come back to you? ROSS: I'm one of the fortunate ones.

We filed early.

Our money that was invested directly with Madoff, we invested three years ago and never took any money out, so about a month ago, we got a half million dollar check and although half a million is not comparable to the $5 million I lost, I'm very grateful for it.

Ten percent of the loaf is better than no loaf.

We immediately paid off the mortgage on our house and our home equity loan so we should be able to keep our home where I've lived for 34 years and that's very important to me.

And others are not that fortunate.

There is an issue -- it's a big issue -- and that is regarding people in the feeder funds.

There may be as many people who invested in the feeder funds (INAUDIBLE) as invested with Madoff directly.

Those people according to the trustee's interpretation of the law are not entitled specific reimbursement and that's quite serious and that's something that will probably be litigated and it's important to those investors, otherwise, if you happen to have gotten hurt by Madoff indirectly, you'll end up with nothing.

PRATT: I think we have to leave it there.

Thank you so much for joining us.

My guest Burt Ross, former Madoff investor.

ROSS: Thank you.
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