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Victims Await Sentencing for Bernard Madoff


Bernard Madoff, the architect of the largest Ponzi scheme in Wall Street history, is due to be sentenced in New York on Monday. Madoff pleaded guilty in March to charges that his investment advisory operation was a massive scheme to rip off investors.

He could spend the rest of his life in prison. Madoff's lawyer is seeking a 12-year sentence, arguing that his client is now co-operating with authorities and his crimes were non-violent.

Some of the thousands of victims of the fraud will speak in court ahead of the sentencing. One family who will be outside the court will be the Friedmans of Long Island, New York. They lost their life savings when the scheme collapsed back in December 2008.

Whatever sentence Bernard Madoff receives, the damage has already been done to Richard and Cynthia Friedman. Their family had been investing with Madoff for decades, starting with Richard's father Gabriel and his mother Shirley. But their life savings and retirement accounts disappeared overnight, when Madoff Ponzi scheme of as much as $65 billion collapsed last December.

RICHARD FRIEDMAN: "To be robbed and to find out that from one moment you had a perception of yourself with money, to it all being gone, is very difficult. It is financial death in essence."

CYNTHIA FRIEDMAN: "Now I wish I was a lavish person and spent the money. I would have at least enjoyed it. It just disappeared up in smoke."

For the Friedmans, the effect has been profound. Richard - an accountant - has put off retirement. They had to abandon buying a new house and long-dreamed-of foreign travel plans.

The Friedmans have always been careful with money. The day after the terrible truth was discovered, the couple even returned their items from shopping back to the stores.

RICHARD FRIEDMAN: "Everything back to the stores...."
CYNTHIA FRIEDMAN: "Everything we bought... "
RICHARD FRIEDMAN: "'Is there something wrong with the product, sir?' No, we just lost all our money!"

Now, they no longer eat out and are consumed with trying to get some of their money back, which they had thought was insured. They worry about the care for Richard's mother, who is suffering from Alzheimer's. They are angry, but also feel lucky to have family support.

"We are rich in the very important things in life," noted Mrs. Friedman. "We are rich with each other and have a fabulous family, so that is all that really matters and we'd like good health."

As for Bernard Madoff's sentencing, the Friedmans say he should get life, as he has ruined their life plans and those of thousands of others.

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