For some Madoff victims, 150-year sentence not enough

Dozens of Bernard Madoff's victims walked to nearby Thomas Paine Park Monday after he was sentenced, where they rallied amid posters castigating the convicted financier and government officials. Various victims held posters with slogans such as "Madoff Stole It, SEC Ignored It" and "Do You Know Where Your Money Is?" Some victims held T-shirts with "Madoff Failed Us" emblazoned on them in red. For Mark La Bianca, who attended the rally, Bernard Madoff's apology to victims in court rang hollow. "It's no apology," said La Bianca, 41, a real estate broker from Melville. "If you wanted to apologize, you would have given everyone up, not apologize to his wife, his sons. He's still perpetuating the scam." La Bianca and his family lost a fortune that would have helped pay for college tuition bills. And now, he and other members of his family are struggling to keep their homes. "For her to have anything would be a slap in the face to people who lost a lifetime of hard work," he said of the court allowing Ruth Madoff to keep $2.5 million. La Bianca and other victims of Madoff's Ponzi scheme came to Monday's sentencing to express their anger at Madoff and a regulatory system they feel failed them. In the courtroom, victims told of the retirement funds lost and the homes and cars sold to make ends meet. "We know he'll be in prison much the same way as he imprisoned us," testified Dominic Ambrosino, 48, a former New York City correction officer who, with his wife, Ronnie Sue, lost all of their savings in Madoff's scheme and now live in a motorhome in Arizona. "I would like someone in the court today to tell us: How long is our sentence?" Other Madoff investors said that they too were living out a "life sentence" - one created by the financier. Investor Michael DeVita, 59, of Chalfont, Pa., called the Ponzi scheme "the biggest crime in the history of the universe." Miriam Siegman, 65, of Manhattan, described her situation as "capital punishment." She relies on food stamps, an $800 monthly Social Security check and Dumpster scavenging. "I think one of the important questions is why are the people, elected officials, failing their duties to provide proper legislation and oversight to prevent these things from going on?" she said. Stephanie Halio, 66, a former Long Island resident who now works as a real estate broker in Boca Raton, Fla., said Madoff got the sentence he deserved. "We will keep on rallying, protesting because our government is betraying us," said Halio. Richard Friedman, 59, of Jericho, another Madoff victim, and his wife Cynthia, 59, called upon the government to help scammed investors. The couple said their biggest concern now is for Richard's mother, who also lost money in the Ponzi scheme and needs 24-hour-a-day nursing care. "We're afraid she'll outlive her money," Cynthia Friedman said. While most approved of Madoff's 150-year sentence, they were skeptical that he was the lone perpetrator of their losses. Maureen Ebel, 61, of West Chester, Pa., one of the investors who said during the hearing she had to sell her car as well as her home, said Madoff had to have help. "No, Bernard Madoff did not act alone," she said. "His wife, his sons and many, many others helped him with it."

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