Madoff's Mark on Chicago

Pritzkers among schemer's victims

The truly astonishing scope of Bernie Madoff's fallen financial scheme is still registering -- even here in Chicago, where victims speaking out about his sentencing on Monday are still in a state of shock.

"Life in jail is too good for him," Stuart Borg of Northbrook told CBS2. "This man has devastated not only people like myself, and richer people than me, but what I've said before – what he's done to these charities. It's unconscionable, and he has no conscience."

Stuart Borg and his wife, Rene, lost several hundred thousand dollars of their retirement money with Madoff.

"It's basically your life savings. It's your children, your grandchildren, the college funds, their inheritance - poof - it's gone."

Executive search consultant William Baker told the Sun-Times that his losses to Madoff were in the millions.

Meanwhile, Baker thinks Madoff might gain a sense of honor by protecting his family from prosecution.

"I think he might have attained a personal victory if he can sit there and smirk about his wife and sons," Baker told the paper's David Roeder.

Roeder writes that "Madoff's investors were often drawn by social connections and his firm's aura of exclusivity and mystery. For a time, Madoff paid 30 percent annual returns like clockwork.

Among his Chicago area victims, according to court documents, were funds associated with Chicago's Pritzker family and J. Ira Harris, vice chairman of the Pritzker Organization and a longtime investment banker."

Those kinds of victims losing money has a ripple effect on their traditional charitable targets, too.

"Hospitals, medical centers and social service agencies across the country say the ripple effect of the Madoff fraud has torpedoed donations large and small, prompting postponed construction projects, delayed equipment purchases, reduced development goals and, in some cases, emergency requests for funds to avoid cutting client care," MSNBC reports.

“'It is a storm of historic proportions,' said Thomas J. Sullivan, president of the foundation for Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, which has seen donations from Madoff investors deferred or delayed. 'It is the general economic malaise exacerbated by these select scandals'."

And now every financial adviser is under suspicion.

"How do I make sure my adviser doesn't turn out to be like Madoff?" Linda from Chicago writes to Tribune investment blogger Gail MarksJarvis. "He's never given me a reason to doubt him, but you don't know who to trust anymore."

The answer?

"There are a few easy ways to protect yourself, but that doesn't mean a clever crook won't defraud you."

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.

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