Madoffed: 90-years-old and starting from scratch

Photo by Maureen Nandini Mitra

When it comes to unwise financial deals, Bernie Madoff’s name is certainly amongst the most infamous. Madoff was once known as a financial wizard. But now he's known for having swindled billions of dollars from thousands of individuals and organizations. Madoff is currently serving a 150 year sentence, the maximum sentencing allowed for orchestrating the country’s biggest Ponzi scheme.

It’s been two years since all of this came to light and Madoff was sent to prison. Sadly his son Mark Madoff recently committed suicide over the fallout from the incident, becoming in essence another victim of this heinous crime.

One of the financial victims of Madoff’s scheme was San Francisco resident Morton Silvers. The nonagenerian found out in December 2008 that he'd lost his life savings. In this first person account from our archives, Silvers said he repeatedly asked his financial advisor for details about the investment plans.

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MORTON SILVERS: ...and was told simply that it's a group of very sophisticated investors who have a very specialized way of trading. Of buying and selling. And that they couldn't be identified more specifically, because if the identification were made then the competition would have access to their so-called secrets. But on December 12, I received a phone call from the general partner of this limited partnership of which I'd been a member and was informed in these words: “Mort, have you heard about this guy Madoff, he's on the television. The Ponzi scheme.” I said, “Oh my god, yes, I saw that last night.” And he said: “I have bad news for you Morton. We've lost everything, we're wiped out.”

I'm not sure just what I'm going to do except, I am planning to stay here literally until my last dollar is gone. I did have some smaller IRA's outside Madoff which permitted me to probably stay for another six months in my home. And when that money is gone, I have move out and where I'm going to go I frankly haven't the answer.

I find also a rather bizarre aftermath of the Madoff, I'll call it Holocaust, in my case. And that is that it’s brought to me an awareness of myself and the way I'm made, that actually has positive and beneficial aspects. And in a sense I have to thank Mr. Madoff for that, even though as I say those words they stick in my mouth.

What I mean is this: I've become aware of the special quality of the here and now. And by that I mean that I have an enormously enhanced awareness of every moment in my life and I find that I’m much more sensitive to the way people look, speak, act. I'm enormously sensitive to growing things. I mean the whole passage of life and death I see each day in my garden. There's a well-known saying, it may be Samuel Johnson or somebody, but, there's nothing that focuses one's mind so much as the awareness that you're going to be hung tomorrow morning. It's that sort of thing. I'm aware, since shortly I'll be 90 years old, that I have very limited time. And therefore every moment and every experience, every sensation, every object, every color, every sound, has an enhanced importance to me and Bernie Madoff is responsible for that.

San Francisco resident Morton Silvers shared his story with KALW’s Steven Short. Steven spoke with Mr. Silvers today and he says he’s still in his home and he’s pursuing legal remedies against Mr. Madoff. The great news is Morton Slivers still has a positive attitude toward life.

This story originally aired on June 22, 2009.