Florida's Madoff victims trying to recoup losses with auction

Bradenton HeraldOctober 14, 2009 

BRADENTON -- Auctioneer Avi Asher lifts a ruby necklace and starts the bid at $81,000.

"This is an investment piece," Asher says. "Or if you’ve done something really bad."

The luxury piece of jewelry belonged to someone who is now in bankruptcy or financial distress, possibly even a victim of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.

The jewelry was part of an auction Tuesday in Bradenton aimed at giving victims of the financial scam a way to recoup some of their losses. Unfortunately, it didn't sell.

Inside a ballroom at the Courtyard Marriott, artwork by Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso and Peter Max were auctioned along with 5-karat diamonds, Tanzanite gemstones and Rolex watches.

Aside from few buyers, the auction brought plenty of curious residents.

"I came here just to look out of curiosity," said Palmetto resident Jean Berry. "And it’s been satisfied."

Of the hundreds of luxury items that filled the hotel's ballroom, a majority belonged to once-wealthy individuals now in financial distress. A select few, however, belonged to the investors who were bilked out of thousands, even millions of dollars, when they trusted Madoff with their life savings. In June, Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison for defrauding thousands of investors out of an estimated $65 billion through his investment advisory business.

"We're getting victims trying to sell their belongings who have lost everything," said Asher, an auctioneer with the Atlanta-based East Coast Financial, which is operating the auctions that will be traveling throughout the United States. "It's very sad to see."

Read the complete story at bradenton.com

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