"How I Got Screwed by Bernie Madoff"

01/17/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The call came at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 11. I had been waiting for it for five years. When the call finally arrived, it was my wife Sarah who answered. What the person said on the other end of the phone was both simple and devastating: we were financially wiped out.

Of course, I knew this instantly from the look on my wife's face. Her words to the caller, the person handling our financial matters, grew insistent: "You're joking? This is a joke, right?"

We didn't know it yet, but we had been playing in the Bernard Madoff Investment Securities LLC Fantasy Financial League. It began when we sold our home at the peak of the market, collected what was left from an old divorce, found other monies and then, with a combination of pleasure and trepidation, handed over our life savings to someone named Stanley Chais, the Los Angeles network organizer for a man named Bernard Madoff.

Of course, we never heard the name Madoff -- which has a peculiarly Dickensian ring now -- and had no idea how he achieved such fantastic returns over the past 40 years.

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