At best, there appear to be about $5 billion in assets to cover an alleged $50 billion fraud. And that has left many victims with a bleak realization: their hope that the government will somehow recover their life saving is the only hope they have left.
Far beyond the Hollywood crowd and moneyed retreats of Palm Beach, Fla., the Madoff loss is most felt in places like a Fairfield, Conn., medical practice, where there's no cure for how sick folks feel.
"Never, never in a million years did I think that I would have nothing," said Linda Alexander, a billing specialist who scrimped and saved for 22 years to contribute to her retirement plan, putting away hundreds of thousands of dollars in all.
Administrative assistant Christine Schneider struggled to save tens of thousands. Now every last cent is gone.
"We don't have the opportunities of the rich and famous. That they could make their investment back in some way or another," Schneider said. "Do another movie. Have a great season on the ball field."
Inside the bustling medical practice, 140 retirement accounts - a total of $33 million - have disappeared.
At 69, Dr. Murray Morrison was set to retire. For him, years of careful, diligent saving were wiped out overnight.
"Forty years of trying to do everything right - and having nothing," he said.
Now the employees fear they will lose again - this time to the corporation known as SIPC, which will decide how much Madoff victims will get.
SIPC treats all people in a retirement plan - no matter how many - as one person. So all the people invested in a single retirement plan may have to divide up the same amount of money that an individual investor would get.
Led by Dr. Henry Backee, the medical group is fighting back.
"Not just our practice, but I have spoken to people in Massachusetts, Minnesota, Chicago, New Jersey. We are of the opinion that we had 140 customers with Madoff," he said.
If that opinion is not shared by SIPIC, the most this practice will receive is a half million dollars in insurance money. That's a far cry from the $33 million the employees lost - stolen by a man they can barely bear to watch.
"Any time you see him on the news or on television, he doesn't look sorry. Not one bit," said Alexander. "It's like, 'Puh, who cares? Who cares about these little people?'"
"If I sit still and think about it, I still cry. I still cry," Morrison said.
In an office devoted to healing, everyday people suffering unbearable pain - hoping not to be treated like a number.