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Madoff Victim: Financier's Apology Does Nothing

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

And we're joined now from New York by one of Bernard Madoff's victims, New York retiree Miriam Siegman, who spoke at Mr. Madoff's sentencing today. Ms. Siegman, what was your message to the court and to Bernard Madoff today?

Ms. MIRIAM SIEGMAN: Well, essentially I said that - I felt that I lived in a world that was now threatening - that the man sitting in the courtroom before us had robbed me, and at an instant, beat me into some kind of senselessness. He discarded me and he discarded all of his victim like so much roadkill.

BLOCK: Roadkill.

Ms. SIEGMAN: Yeah. Victims kind of just became a casual byproduct of his greed. And I talked about the fact that six months have passed by and I manage on food stamps. Sometimes at the end of the month I scavenge in dumpsters. I long to do things like go to a concert, but of course I never do. I don't buy medication often. I shouldn't even shine my shoes every night because I'm afraid they're going to wear out. I do my laundry by hand in the kitchen sink. And, you know, I collect empty cans and bring them to redemption centers. So, we talk about the reality with my daily life.

BLOCK: Could you tell whether what you were saying had any impact on Bernard Madoff himself? Could you tell how he was reacting?

Ms. SIEGMAN: No, because the court saw fit to seat us behind his head.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BLOCK: So you couldn't watch his - you couldn't watch his face.

Ms. SIEGMAN: No, no. In honesty, I think that the biggest thing is that I live with fear and that that fear strikes me unpredictably.

BLOCK: What kind of fear?

Ms. SIEGMAN: Well, part of - there's a fear of trying to calculate how long I can hold out financially. I'm 65 years old, recently retired and having serious physical problems. And it's only a matter of time before I will be unable to meet, I think, my own basic needs like food, shelter and medicine.

BLOCK: How much did you lose with Bernard Madoff?

Ms. SIEGMAN: Everything. I lost my entire pension and all my savings.

BLOCK: And when you do the math, how much was that?

Ms. SIEGMAN: Well, 40 years worth of hard work.

BLOCK: Mm-hmm.

Ms. SIEGMAN: Thousands and thousands of dollars saved over a lifetime.

BLOCK: Was it at all cathartic for you to make the statement that you did make in court today?

Ms. SIEGMAN: I guess not really. And the reason I say that is I think all of us had hoped for was a truth that might have come at trial. You know, when you have a trial, you have subpoena power and people get on the stand that are cross-examined. But Bernie orchestrated this whole thing from the beginning, and so there was no trial and the judge decided to accept the plea bargain.

BLOCK: There was a moment, Ms. Siegman, in court today when Bernie Madoff turned and faced his victims and said, I'm sorry, I know that doesn't help you. But you did get an apology. How did that register with you?

Ms. SIEGMAN: Not at all. He gets sent off and we get a lifetime sentence that is a horrible sentence. It's a sentence of want, of humiliation and the inability to care for, in my case, to care for myself in my older age. And that's not a pretty prospect. But worst of all is the nagging feeling that I have that none of this will change anything and that's what is so devastating.

BLOCK: That none of it will change anything for the broader system.

Ms. SIEGMAN: Yeah. For the next generation, for your generation, the people who have pensions and who have savings. You know, the fact that Bernie Madoff sitting in jail for 150 years, or however long he lives, doesn't change any of what needs to be changed - real meaningful changes to the system.

BLOCK: Well, Miriam Siegman, thank you very much for talking with us.

Ms. SIEGMAN: You're quite welcome.

BLOCK: Miriam Siegman is a New York retiree, one of the victims who spoke about their losses at the sentencing of Bernard Madoff in New York today. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.