Madoff miniseries stirs nightmares for victim

Posted at 9:30 AM, Feb 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-04 12:35:29-05
SAN DIEGO -- The “Madoff” miniseries that debuted on ABC Wednesday night is stirring up nightmares for a local victim of Bernie Madoff's evil scheme. But his story is different from other victims. 
Ernie Abbit’s life was turned upside down because Madoff made him lots of money. 
Two dozen San Diegans are among the thousands of people Bernie Madoff scammed in his Ponzi scheme; the largest financial fraud in U.S. history.
While the miniseries is entertainment, Abbit told 10News that for him it’s a horrifying reminder of what he nearly lost.
“I don’t know if I can watch this,” Abbit said.
Almost a decade later, the emotion is still raw for the 86-year-old San Diegan.   
“I sort of resent it in a way because I think we've glamorizing the situation. He was a parasite of the worst kind.  To live through that again and again, it's punishment and it's gonna be a tough pill to swallow.”
A friend originally convinced Abbit to invest with Madoff. Abbit spoke with Madoff personally over the phone.
“He said, ‘you'll never earn less than 10 percent.’”
Abbit investment with Madoff did very well. However, a short time later, he got a bad feeling and took his money out, just three years before Madoff's Ponzi scheme became a public nightmare.
Even so, the courts came after his money.
“We're going to collect it and you better make provisions for paying up,” Abbit recalled.
So Abbit hired an attorney, who fought for two years while Abbit lost countless hours of sleep.
“This was my life savings,” Abbit said.  “What happens to my family and all my plans for my kids and for my wife? There was the great possibility that Ernie Abbit could become one of the homeless.”
And if Madoff were sitting in front of him today, what would Abbit say?
“How could you live with yourself?”
In the end, Abbit got to keep every dime, but his emotional scars still run deep.
“I almost feel guilty that I was one of the ones that was saved, because so many people lost their livelihoods.” 
ABC's Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross helped inspire this miniseries with his book, "The Madoff Chronicles." You can catch part two of the miniseries Thursday at 8 p.m. on ABC 10.