Advertisements trumpeting "Bernie Madoff Auction" ahead of events being held at hotels around the country appear to have little or no connection to the criminal or his victims, a WalletPop investigation found.
Instead, customers who show up are likely to find a garden-variety auction of items from estates and liquidations and, perhaps, the possibility that a victim of Madoff might sell something, too.
Consumers who were lured to the auctions recently in two Florida cities -- West Palm Beach and Naples -- noted the advertisements created an expectation for something that wasn't there.
Leaders of Madoff victims' groups have not been contacted by the auctioneer and had questions of his intentions.
The use of Madoff's name and the attempt to capitalize on sympathy for his victims did not play well with those who were among the thousands of people who lost billions of dollars in the Ponzi scheme the investment company chief ran for years.
"Sadly, victims continue to be re-victimized," said Ilene Kent, the coordinator of one victim's group.
"I think it's fishy," said Jackie Stone, who writes a Madoff victims' blog.
The auctioneer trading on the Madoff name is Dion Abadi, of Chamblee, Ga., a veteran of the auction trade along with his brother Gavin. The two have a track record of auction rules violations, which Dion Abadi told WalletPop are mostly of the procedural variety for such things as failure to pay the annual renewal fee.
But other charges lodged in Florida, where the last two "Madoff" auctions were held, show they've also had problems with their advertisements and one serious complaint involving an item that appraised far lower than claimed at auction.
Florida law frowns on misleading consumers to come to auctions. A spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, which polices the auction industry, said she could not confirm or deny whether an investigation is underway but noted the department welcomes complaints from consumers who believe they have been deceived by an auctioneer.
The newspaper ads refer consumers to an anonymous web site: madoffhelpline.com.. Here's the text of the site:
"HAVE YOU BEEN A VICTIM OF BERNIE MADOFF PONZI SCHEME? If you have been a victim of the Maddoff (sic) ponzi scheme and would Like to liquidate your fine art or jewelry at one of our future auctions contact us with a brief description of your inventory."
Abadi acknowledged that it was his site and that it had been set up in the hopes that Madoff victims would contact him to sell their goods. He also acknowledged that some who come to the auctions leave disappointed.
"Some people are expecting it to be Bernie Madoff auctions and it's not," he said.
The auctioneer also agreed that using the Madoff name in the ads was something that would boost attendance.
"It's going to bring more people in," he said.
Abadi said he just wants to help those who were victimized by Madoff. Asked several times what percentage of items brought to auction are Madoff victims' belongings, he refused to answer. Finally, he tossed out a figure -- 25%.
"I think I'm doing a very good thing," Abadi said. "People I'm helping out are very happy. It's going for a good cause."
Asked to produce the name of any Madoff victim whose goods he sold, Abadi offered none. He said we would reach out to some, but a day later he still did not supply one. Meanwhile, Madoff victims, who have acted as a central information point for others who lost their savings in the massive scam, say they want no part of these auctions.
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