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Alleged "Mini-Madoffs" Coming To Light

Early Show - Mini Madoff scammer Nicholas Cosmo - Jan. 28, 2009
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Even as Congress demands answers from federal regulators about the alleged $50 billion Bernie Madoff scandal, more possible schemes are being uncovered.

In Tampa, Fla., hedge fund manager Arthur Nadel surrendered to authorities after two weeks on the run. Authorities say he overstated the value of investments in six funds by roughly $300 million.

On Long Island, N.Y., Nicholas Cosmo is charged with cheating some 1,500 investors out of tens of millions of dollars.

On The Early Show Wednesday, Mark Restivo, who says $200,000 of his money was lost to Cosmo, told co-anchor Maggie Rodriguez it's "crippling" and cost him "pretty much" all of his life savings. "I was gonna pay my house off,' Restivo added.

Concerned about the Madoff case, Restivo says he went to Cosmo's office Monday to be sure his money was safe, "asking just for answers. When the brokers just passed us, I was left hanging. Just left me hanging. It's a horrible feeling. (They said) nothing. Just walked right by me."

He says he realized he'd lost all his money "that day. That's when my American dream, and many other investors... and I'm here today to speak on (behalf of) all those investors that can't be here today, and I could tell them that we're gonna fight. We must stand together and file (suit), do what we need to do, with the government, the FBI, whoever else is involved in this."

Holding Restivo's paperwork from Cosmo, Rodriguez said, "There were no warning signs. All the contracts, all the paperwork looked legit."

"Everything looked legit," Restivo agreed. "I was brought in by a friend. That's how everything happened. One friend brings in another. You trust that friend. He's making money, you see the cash rolling in. A few months later, you get your check, or you could roll it over. But it's very deceptive."

Since Restivo saw no warning signs, what can others do to keep from being victimized by similar Ponzi schemes?

"I guess," he responded, "the more people speak on this, the more people become aware... Let me tell you what each investor, including myself -- it's a crippling feeling to lose your life savings, a crippling feeling to know that one day you're in control of your money and now you have to ask some person, some convicted felon for money, and he says to me, 'No, I don't have your money.' 'Where is it?' We're left hanging.

Cosmo, Restivo says, was convicted of a similar crime in 1999, and he didn't know "until I had my money invested. And then I thought, 'Let's give this guy a second chance. Let's give America a second chance.' All these people -- and it turned out to be a fraud.

"I'm at a grieving point right now in my life. It's a death, a dying of a death of something, of many dreams that could have been fulfilled with all that money."

What would he do differently?

"I would have put it right into my house. Paid off my mortgage. And now I have to -- it set me back a couple of years, more so.

Restivo says, if he could see Cosmo, he'd say, "I got four words for you. 'Show me the money. Show us all the money. Show every investor, hard-working Americans, especially in today's economy, you can't make up for this.' There are people here in Long Island and across the country that have not been able to sleep a sound sleep for eight hours. I haven't had a decent night's sleep in over a week."



The FBI has set up hotlines for potential Ponzi scheme victims, and to report other possible corporate fraud. They are 888-622-0117 and (212) 384-2359. Potenail Cosmo victims can call 212-384-2166.