Madoff Made Off With Chicago Dough

162-page court filing includes names of Chicago players

Friday, Feb 6, 2009  |  Updated 7:30 PM CDT
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Madoff Made Off With Chicago Dough

AP

Bernard Madoff, the accused mastermind of a llarge Ponzi scheme that played off millionaires nationwide.

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The names of dozens of people with direct Chicago connections are found on the newly-released list of alleged victims of Bernard Madoff's $50-billinois Ponzi scheme.

The names of J. Ira Harris, the former Chicago investment banker and Pritzker Organization vice-chairman, and his wife Nicki appear on a 162-page court filing made public on Thursday.

Two 1987 Harris family trusts also appear on a separate list of Madoff’s Illinois customers that was obtained by Crain’s Chicago Business. Neither list included investment amounts.

The Sun--Times reported Friday that another name on the list is Patti Gerber, a Chicago heiress whose father -- who made his fortune in the plastics industry -- began investing with Madoff decades ago.  Gerber said the in good times her father's investments generated "amazing" annual returns -- up to 30 percent.

Her family is from New York, but Gerber has a "country home" in Lake Forest, and says she'll have to make some serious adjustments after losing between $15 million and $20 million in the Madoff scheme.

Gerber said she trusted Madoff, but he was gruff. 

"He was not manor born," she said.

Other Chicago-area residents included in the bankruptcy document include:

    * Pearson Street Capital LLC, affiliated with Berger Management Services, where a woman who answered the phone said it was a family office associated with veteran real estate developer Miles Berger.

    * Howard Weiss, a retired Chicago lawyer and partner in the Weiss family foundation. His wife, Molly, declined to comment from their Palm Beach residence.

    * The late Barbara Laird of suburban Lake Forest. Her son-in-law Roger Williams says Ms. Laird invested “a little over” $100,000 with Madoff. She died last month without knowing about the alleged fraud, he said.

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