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Bernard Madoff could face 150 years in prison Monday, for masterminding the Ponzi scheme that's estimated to have netted tens of billions of dollars. The financier pleaded guilty in March to the massive fraud and Monday he's scheduled to be sentenced in federal court in New York City.
His lawyers are asking for a 12-year jail term. One of his thousands of victims, Massachusetts School of Law Dean Lawrence Velvel, joined us to talk about the sentencing.
Bob Oakes: I think I should ask you, Dean Velvel, what do you think Madoff should get? Twelve years? One hundred and fifty years? Something in between?
Lawrence Velvel: I believe he should get the full allowable maximum, 150 years.
For the very reasons that prosecutors are reported to have mentioned. I haven't read their paper yet, I haven't been able to get hold of it, but I've read about it in the papers. And plus other reasons.
I mean clearly this is the swindle of the century. The lives of thousands of people, many of them elderly have been ruined and never has so many — to paraphrase Churchill — never has so much money been stolen from so many by so few.
And there are other reasons which are not generally mentioned, such as, as near as I can see — and nobody knows except the so-called SIPA (Securities Investor Protection Act) trustee and the prosecuters — but as near as those of us in the public can see, Madoff has failed extensively to cooperate.
He's hardly cooperated at all with prosecutors and SIPA trustee -- the SIPA trustee's efforts -- to find out where all the money went, who the other culpable parties are. There must be at least 20 to 25 people who were in on this secret, in on this deal.
And I guess I should also add the deterrents factor: You simply don't want anybody to think that you can do something like this, or anything even approaching it, or anything remotely like it, and not have the book thrown at you.
In March, you wrote a letter on behalf of Madoff survivors to Judge Denny Chin, who is presiding over the Madoff case, asking him to make sure that the government uncovers and recovers the swindled money and that prosecutors investigate Madoff's family and friends to the fullest. What's the response been to the letter?
Well there has been no response to the letter. And I did not expect a response to the letter. My letter was one of many that the judge received. So far at least the judge has — he has done as near as people like myself who are completely on the outside can tell, virtually nothing to ensure that the whole process is uncovered, that the whole scheme is unraveled.
One doesn't know what the judge knows or what the prosecutor knows because we're all on the outside. And the government is maintaining its usual lack of transparency in all things which it can keep non-transparent. So we don't know, other than to say that the government has filed papers saying that it's going to take months longer, if ever, to figure out all the people who lost money, all the money that was lost, and so on and so forth.
Of the over 1,300 Madoff victims, there are only a handful being allowed in court Monday to testify -- or to speak, I should say — at the sentencing hearing. If you were in that courtroom, what would you say to Madoff? What would you say to the judge? What would you say to prosecutors?
Well I would have absolutely nothing to say to Bernie Madoff, he's beneath contempt and not worthy of anybody speaking to him. What I would say in court is the same thing I'm saying to you, plus a little more than I've already said.
I don't even think -- I don't think that the guilty plea should have been taken. I don't think sentencing should occur now. So that's what I would say, I would say, you know, hold. You shouldn't even be proceeding here because the judge hasn't been told enough, the government hasn't told him enough, the government may not know enough and apparently, Madoff and many of his colleagues and compatriots have maintained tight lips and said nothing.
And I think that the public, and everybody, ought to have a right to know in this most exceptional situation exactly what happened. I personally — and this may be a figure of my memory -- but I personally cannot remember another huge crime like this-- swindle, bank robbery, you name it--I cannot remember another huge crime like this where a major culprit was sentenced when so little was known about what happened.
Do you think the full extent of this will ever be uncovered? Do you think most of the money will ever be recovered or maybe just a fraction of it?
That all depends on what the government does and the assiduousness with which it pursues this, because there are many people who know what happened. As I say, I think there's at least 20 to 25 people who were in on it and between them they must know all the details regardless of whether Bernie Madoff talks or keeps his mouth entirely shut.
Let me ask you one last question: How have you been affected by this?
Well, I've lost a lot of money. That's all I'm going to say. I've lost a major part of my savings.
Dean Velvel, thanks for speaking with us this morning.
This program aired on June 29, 2009.
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