stock that, in the euphoric thinking of
the day, would surely skyrocket when
Zone Trader inevitably went public.
Months later, the tech bubble burst,
and at 62, Millner was jobless. The
$2.5 million had gone to pay business
debts. Zone Trader’s stock was worth-
less. Then his wife filed for divorce—
and a chunk of his assets. “I sat in my
home with no income and no nothing
and said to myself, ‘Now what?’”
The only option: Start over, by
hustling again to find equipment to
auction. Today his new company is on
solid footing, though only about half
the size of the original business.
“This wasn’t a very pleasant period
for me,” says Millner, who remarried
five years ago. “But was I desperate?
No. I was abandoned at 12 to live in
an orphanage—my entire world was
in a brown paper bag. I lived in foster
homes until I was 18. If you know
what zero is, everything is a plus.”
ONCE UPON A TIME, Connie and Neil Friedman were living the good
life as retirees in Palm City, Florida,
withdrawing $100,000 a year from
the $3 million nest egg that insurance
man Neil had amassed. Certified as a
master gardener, Neil devoted himself year-round to his hobby, and the
couple dined out often with friends.
BAMBOOZLED BY MADOFF
NEIL FRIEDMAN “If I’m going to live with anger, then all I’ve got will be lost. We’re going to get through this somehow.”
“I no longer eat like I used to,” says
Neil, 74. “I’ve lost 15 pounds since
Living on $24,000 a year from
Social Security, the Friedmans are
rigorously watching their spending.
Neil is determined to get on with his
life: he was hired temporarily by the
U.S. Census Bureau, earning $14 an
hour, and is thinking about a business
helping homeowners grow organic
vegetables. He is not eager for Connie
to work. “She has a full-time job taking
care of me,” he says.
Like other Madoff victims, Neil
was able to claim a theft loss on his
2008 tax return and received about
$40,000 back from the government.
He can also carry losses on his phan-
tom income going back three to five
years. Eventually he hopes to recover
money from the Securities Inves-
tor Protection Corporation (SIPC),
which guarantees investors against
losses when a brokerage firm fails.
“If I am very lucky, I could get almost
$1 million back,” he estimates.