Convicted swindler Bernard Madoff insists he's not a bad person. In fact, in a magazine interview published Sunday, he said he has undergone therapy while in prison, detests being described by some as "evil" and even considers himself a victim of the giant Ponzi scheme he created.
Ron Stein of Huntington and other investors on Long Island who lost fortunes in Madoff's scam aren't buying his latest self-revelations.
"It is hard to know what is fact or fiction," said Stein, whose family lost an unspecified amount when Madoff's global swindle collapsed.
Some investors said they were beyond anger but others remain suspicious of Madoff statements.
Richard Friedman, formerly of Jericho and another investor who lost savings, said that anything Madoff says has to be viewed skeptically, particularly his recent claim that the banks and hedge funds must have known he was running a fraud.
Ronnie Sue Ambrosino, an investor who formerly lived on Long Island, questioned whether Madoff was delusional or trying to manipulate the truth with his telephone interview in New York magazine.
But Ambrosino, who now lives in Arizona, said that Madoff's claim that his operation was legitimate for a period of time should be investigated. In court papers, investigators have indicated they cannot find any record that Madoff ever made any actual securities purchases.
Madoff told the magazine that through therapy he has come to believe he is a good person and not a sociopath. He also said that many of his victims, who lost a combined total of about $20 billion in investments, could get up to half of their money back.
For years, Madoff said, his investment company made money. But, he said, in 1990s things began to unravel when he couldn't keep dishing out returns of 15 to 20 percent a year.
Burt Ross lost about $5 million when Madoff's scam was discovered. He said he's well past the anger and shock of the betrayal that once moved him to tears. After learning of Madoff's latest remarks, Ross reacted with sarcasm. "I think he would be right in line for sainthood," said Ross, of Englewood, N.J. "Maybe we should have a national day."
Ross, who has been able to recoup some of his money through the bankruptcy court proceedings, said that Madoff's defense of himself was just another blatant attempt to refurbish his image and put blame on others.
Attorney Howard Kleinhendler of Manhattan, who represents several Madoff victims, deplored the way Madoff is spinning the media.
"The notion that Madoff is a good guy . . . is just adding insult to injury," said Kleinhendler. Madoff, he said, "is nothing less than a pathological liar."