Like many in the nation, Marcia Ellis was riveted to the television Thursday to watch as Bernard Madoff was taken to jail after pleading guilty to running a vast Ponzi scheme.
But unlike many, the Maine woman’s interest was painfully personal. She and her husband, Martin, lost their life savings after investing it with the fraudulent financier’s company.
“My jaw is clenched,” Marcia Ellis said Thursday evening. “I was positive they were going to let him go. It’s just, ‘Money walks.’”
In this case, it walked to jail with handcuffs on, past dozens of the scheme’s victims.
For the Ellises, seeing Madoff go to jail was more justice than they expected — but still far from enough.
On Dec. 12, 2008, they heard the news that they were wiped out, having lost the few hundred thousand dollars accrued after a lifetime of work. They had moved to the Bangor area after retirement, looking for a more relaxed lifestyle, but suddenly everything changed.
“Our whole lives have been turned around,” Marcia Ellis said.
She said that her husband, age 70, just took the test to be a U.S. Census taker. She’ll start school in May, in preparation for the possibility of a retirement job.
“Here we are, struggling to not go on the dole,” she said.
So even though Madoff is in jail and will be sentenced in June to a possible maximum of 150 years in prison, the Ellises feel as if something isn’t quite right.
Some victims were given the chance to tell Madoff how he has hurt them, and Marcia Ellis knows what she would say, if she could.
“I would ask, ‘How can you protect your wife and your family and leave the rest of us out here like this? How could you not come clean and tell us where the money is?’” she said. “I believe he’s still lying.”
There is a chance that they might get some relief through the Securities Investor Protection Corp., a nonprofit organization created by Congress to aid customers of fraudulent brokers, but the Ellises haven’t received anything yet and are still “very skeptical” about the possibility.
The couple recently were interviewed by New York writer Andrew Kirtzman, who is working on a book about the Madoff scandal. Marcia Ellis said they were the only Maine victims willing to come forward.
“[Kirtzman] said that the shocking thing that he noticed is that all the victims are being treated like pariahs, like it was all our fault,” she said. “It wasn’t all rich people. It happened to regular people, too.”
While the couple are busy now going forward with their new lives, Marcia Ellis said she still wants some kind of emotional closure.
“There’s a possibility I might go down there just to see the sentencing, to close it in my mind. My husband thinks I’m crazy,” she said. “I want to just stand down there and watch.”