MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — They took a page from Bernie Madoff’s playbook, bilking nearly 50 victims of more than $12 million.
Now, as two Long Island financial advisers head to prison, victims who were swindled in a Ponzi scheme are getting some payback, CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported Tuesday.
Retiree Laura Albergo of Plainvew was swindled by her financial adviser.
“He duped me and scammed me. He used to come to my house. I trusted him. I met his kids, I met his wife,” Albergo said.
According to Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas, Albergo was among 48 victims of a massive Ponzi scheme masterminded by Matthew Eckstein of Syosset and Kevin Brody, formerly of Dix Hills.
“The Ponzi scheme builds with as many people as you can suck into it,” Singas said. “At some point, though, it all comes crumbling down, because you don’t have any more money to distribute.”
Linda Solliday of Seaford said she and her husband can’t sleep at night.
“I feel very hurt. I feel very betrayed,” Solliday said. “All these people, not just myself, 50 victims!”
Looking back, victim Donald Karlsen of Farmingdale said the scheme was built on trust. He was unaware the duo kept the money for themselves, as evidenced by Eckstein’s fancy home and cars, swimming pool and tennis court.
“My wish for him is that he spends as much time in jail as he did living the high life on our money,” Karlsen said.
But in a rare twist, unlike the Madoff case, prosecutors tipped by an elderly victim to the ruse immediately froze bank accounts and real estate of the suspects and eventually recovered $5 million of the $12 million stolen from victims.
They were recently presented with restitution checks.
“We are gratified that we are able to give back some of the money,” Singas said.
“It’s not the huge amount we invested, but it’s a nice portion of it,” Solliday said.
“I am grateful today. I have mixed emotions. It’s bittersweet,” Albergo added.
Eckstein and Brody are headed to prison. Singas said her office will keep working to recover additional restitution funds for the victims.
Prosecutors said investors did not catch on to the scheme for years because the victims received bogus bank statements showing their money was growing.