Madoff victim loses everything

Seven On Your Side
January 9, 2009 10:30:25 PM PST
Here's a different take on the 50 billion dollar Bernard alleged Madoff ponzi scheme - from a man who lost everything. Until now you've heard about A-listers like Speilberg, Kevin Bacon and the owner of the New York Mets who say they were taken. What you may not know is regular people were also say they left behind in the Madoff mess. Tappy Phillips spoke to one blue collar man who worked to get the American dream, only to see if disappear in the blink of an eye."He's a low life, dirt bag, piece of dog crap, is what he is. To do this to people..." Joe Rubino can't finish a sentence without breaking up. His anger and anguish is directed at man he's never met - Bernard Madoff. The man behind the alleged $50 billion ponzi scheme and who Joe says cost him his future and more than a million dollars.

"He's under house arrest. He's got servants, he's got butlers, maids, serving him lobsters," Joe told 7 On Your Side's Tappy Phillips. "I'm under house arrest and I did nothing wrong. I can't go out because I can't buy gas."

Joe Rubino and his wife live in this modest single family home. The retired brick layer saved to pay it off in full.

They also turned their life savings, some 400-thousand dollars to Bernard Madoff, more than 20 years ago.

"I heard the man was a God On Wall Street. My sister worked there, that's how I got in," said Joe.

Year after year, Joe says Madoff's firm sent him detailed statements, showing the stocks and mutual funds he owned, touting solid returns. Just last month Joe's Madoff statement showed two accounts totaling more than a million dollars in assets.

"I have it all on paper. But you can start a fire with it. It's all garbage, that's what it is," said Joe.

Now, Joe says all he has is four thousand dollars to his name and no job prospects. A lifetime of laying brick left him with a bad back. "A guy like myself, a brick layer, with a broken back, where do you go? It's just horrible."

Joe may be entitled to repayment from the federal government that insures investments. A judge may award Joe a portion of the Madoff assets. But that could months down the road.

So 7 On Your Side put Joe in touch with financial expert and author of "Living Rich for Less," Ellie Kay to help him in the short term. Fortunately, Joe and his wife already live frugally. But Ellie says they can lower their car and home insurance by simply shopping around for better rates. And apply to their town to lower their property tax assessment.

"Between automobile insurance, homeowners policy, taxes and food, it looks like we are able to going to be able to cut their expenses anywhere between 75 and 100 dollars a week," says Ellie.

As for Joe and his wife, financially they've begun belt tightening. But the emotional scar will take time to heal. "He pulled the rug out from under us," says Joe. "Our whole future? Gone."

In Saint James, Long Island, Tappy Phillips Channel Seven Eyewitness News.

Story by: Tappy Phillips

Produced by: Steve Livingstone