She wore a hot pink coat, he wore a dark leather jacket - and both were steaming over the $15 million their family had lost to Bernard Madoff.

Cynthia and Richard Friedman, both 59, of Jericho, came to lower Manhattan Thursday to have their say about the man who swindled them out of their life savings.

- Click here to see the faces of Bernie Madoff's victims, outside the courthouse today

- Click here to see today's latest photos of Bernie Madoff in court

The Friedmans spoke in the shadow of the federal courthouse where Madoff was pleading guilty to the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. Their plans for a dream vacation in Asia were up in smoke.

The Friedmans invested with Madoff thinking he would bring them good returns.

Instead, the couple lost $3 million to Madoff, and Richard Friedman's mother lost $12 million, the Friedmans said.

"Madoff is the reason why I am still working," said Friedman, a certified public accountant who had planned to retire early.

As a result of their financial losses, the Friedmans have discarded plans to move to a Westbury retirement community. They haven't lost their home in Jericho, but they are uncertain about their plans for the future.

"I wanted Madoff to see the faces of some of the victims," said Cynthia Friedman, a retired New York City teacher, explaining why she had come to court.

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The Friedmans never suspected the scam. Richard Friedman had researched Madoff's background and thought he was making a conservative investment.

The Friedmans originally invested $135,000 with Madoff in 1991 and a total of $1.435 million through the years.

"We saved and saved," said Cynthia Friedman. "We expected to have a wonderful future."

Friedman said she became hysterical when she learned about the scam.

"I knew what it meant immediately," she said. "I just crawled into bed and stayed there for days."

Now, Friedman says, the government is "putting out a myth that everyone gets back $500,000. They're not."

Richard Friedman wanted Madoff to go to trial rather than plead guilty.

"We'll probably never know just how much money was lost in all of this," he said.

His wife summed up the couple's feelings about Madoff: "He is an evil, evil, evil person."

Hoping to get some emotional satisfaction from her catastrophic financial loss, Miriam Siegman waited to hear the "click of the handcuffs" in the courtroom.

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"But it was only for moment I felt happy,'' said Siegman, 65, who said she lost her life savings and relies on food stamps and welfare.

"Waking up every morning with Bernie Madoff -- seeing his face when I have to decide whether I can buy toothpaste -- it's death -- that's how I feel."

Siegman, a lifelong Manhattan resident, is a retired consultant who worked for non-profit organizations. She invested her savings into Madoff's Ponzi scheme 25 years ago. She declined to specify the amount she lost.

"A nice, old widow from Brooklyn, who was with the American Jewish Congress, out of the kindness of her heart put me in touch with Madoff. We were working people. She thought it could help," Siegman said of the other investors.

Siegman is one step away from being homeless and sleeping in her Volvo, she said.

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"It's not the money anymore," she said. "It's not about going to the welfare office because the people there are real."

"It's living in a world surrounded by devastating corruption," she said, pulling out her welfare card. "The only good that can come from this is the truth."

In the courtroom, in a section marked off for the victims, Helen Chaitman watched for some emotion as Bernard Madoff read his statement to the judge.

The New Jersey attorney, who said she lost her life savings to Madoff's scheme, wasn't convinced the disgraced money manager was genuinely sorry.

"I saw no contrition," said, Chaitman, 67, of Frenchtown. "He's a very brilliant, conniving man and he's made a decision as to what is in his best interest. And it was in his best interest to read that statement."

Madoff left the courtroom as much as a mystery to her as ever.

"It's kind of fascinating really," she said. "With all the devastation he caused, he only [has] two arms, two legs and one mouth, but he's certainly done an awful amount of damage."

Chaitman, who declined to reveal how much she lost to Madoff's scheme, said she was satisfied with the guilty plea and said a trial wasn't necessary for her.

She was asked if 150 years would be enough.

"I think," she said, "that'll do it for him."

Brian Felsen got a first-hand look at the seamier side of the investment world as he listened to Bernard Madoff plead guilty in a spectacular scheme that turned millionaires into paupers.

Felsen, 23, who is in the clothing and embroidery business in Minneapolis, flew to New York to represent his family and his deceased grandfather. While he would not give numbers, Felsen said his family had lost to Madoff an inheritance from his grandfather.

As Madoff pleaded guilty and apologized for his crimes, Felsen sat in the courtroom. He had intended to speak as a victim of the disgraced financier but decided against it.

"I didn't object to the plea," Felsen said as he slipped out a back door of the courtroom.

Felsen was reluctant to comment on Madoff's crimes.

"I don't have many kind things to say about him," Felsen said. "And my grandfather always taught me if you can't be kind, don't say anything at all."

The way Burt Ross sees it, there's a message in Bernard Madoff's downfall about right and wrong.

"It's not all about money," said Ross, of Englewood, N.J., who lost $5 million to the disgraced financier's Ponzi scheme. "It's about values."

Thursday, at the federal courthouse in Manhattan, Ross watched Madoff get taken from the courtroom in handcuffs. Ross said witnessing Madoff begin to face justice isn't only about the missing money.

"My life will go on long after this guy is in jail for the rest of his life," said Ross, 68, surrounded by reporters and cameras after the hearing. "The irony about all of this is, despite all the mansions and the yachts and the jet planes, when this man dies, nobody will come to his funeral."

Madoff may have met the legal standard for accepting responsibility for his crimes, but he didn't seem to be delivering his words of regret from the heart, Ross said.

Madoff's statement was "written by a lawyer" and delivered in a "flat monotone," Ross said.

"There was no emotion," said Ross, who owns commercial real estate in New Jersey. "The only thing I think he feels is regret he got caught."

One thing has changed, however, Ross said.

"I think we finally got that smirk off his face," Ross said. "It's been replaced by a nervous tic."

Dewitt Clinton Baker and his wife, Judith Welling, sat in the jury assembly room with the overflow crowd to watch Bernard Madoff plead guilty on a screen broadcasting the action from the courtroom.

Baker, 84, a World War II veteran who lives in Battery Park City, said he lost $2.4 million on paper but ultimately the real loss was around a million dollars. Still, it was money that had been earmarked for the college funds of the couple's nine grandchildren, the charities they support, the universities they give back to.

"We lost our nest egg," Baker said. "I'd like to stone him."

Gazing at the large screen at the front of the jury room, Baker acknowledged there was satisfaction in seeing Madoff led out of court in handcuffs and presumably directly to federal prison.

"He should be in solitary confinement," Baker said.

Still, he and his wife were counting themselves among the fortunate.

"Initially, there's a hit," said Welling, 70, a retired sales executive. "But then you look at your life and say, what do I have in life? I have a wonderful family, a wonderful husband. I'm not destitute."

Sharon Lissauer just wants her money back.

The Manhattan resident and former model said she "lost all her savings" to Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme. She declined to say how much she lost.

"Regardless of [whether] he goes to jail or to his penthouse, I would have been OK, as long as he gives back his money to make his investors whole," said Lissauer, who declined to reveal her age.

Madoff's apology doesn't pay the bills, she said.

"That's all fine," Lissauer said, "but I don't know how that helps his victims.

"His victims are really interested in getting some money back."

Lissauer speculated that Madoff has off-shore accounts with money that can be used "to make us whole.

"If he goes to jail, it's not going to change my life," Lissauer said. "I don't have anything else, so I'm really in trouble."

Ilene Kent wanted Bernard Madoff to go to trial so the victims of his Ponzi scheme can find out "where the money went.

"We'll never know, and the people who sold their homes and small businesses to invest everything they had with Madoff will never know," said Kent, 54, of Manhattan.

Still, Kent, a paralegal, said she hopes Madoff spends the rest of his life in "a five by eight cell, and not be able to talk to anyone.''

Kent described herself as a spokeswoman for an Internet support group, The Bernard Madoff Survivors Group, whose Web site has 350 people and is growing. Members share their loss, information and experiences on the site, she said.

One reason for the site, she said, is "a lot of people out there are afraid still to come forward."

Kent lost about 80 percent of her savings to Madoff's scheme, she said. She declined to say how much.

"And now, in a flash it's all gone," Kent said. "We're not destitute; we'll survive. We're Americans, and we will pull together. But I know people who do not know if they will have a home in three months."

- Click here to see the faces of Bernie Madoff's victims, outside the courthouse today

- Click here to see today's latest photos of Bernie Madoff in court

These profiles were written and reported by staff writers: JAMES BERNSTEIN, SOPHIA CHANG, ANTHONY M. DESTEFANO, GARY DYMSKI, MICHAEL FRAZIER, ANN GIVENS, KEITH HERBERT, KATHLEEN KERR, THOMAS MAIER, JOHN RILEY AND ELLEN YAN. MARIA ALVAREZ and JONATHAN STARKEY also contributed.