Nadel becomes AG race issue

Oct 22, 2010

Jeremy Wallace

Sarasota Herald-Tribune

Florida attorney general candidate Dan Gelber was in Sarasota today vowing to create an investment fraud unit in the AG’s office to protect Floridians from Ponzi scammers like Arthur Nadel.

Nadel, who operated out of Sarasota, was convicted on Thursday to 14 years in prison for running a Ponzi scheme that bilked 390 families out of $162 million.

Gelber, speaking at the Senior Friendship Center in Sarasota, said Florida, in response, needs to create a 10-20 person unit that will specialize in going after white collar criminals that bilk senior citizens out of their pension money or other retirement money.

Gelber, a Democrat running against Republican Pam Bondi for attorney general, said people like Nadel end up being tried in other states because Florida lacks the expertise to go after them. The state needs to build a unit that will be so good that it will scare future scammers away.

Gelber said given that so many of Nadel’s victims live in Florida, he should have been tried here so his victims could face him.

Gelber said though everyone hears about people like Nadel and Bernie Madoff, less publicized are the hundreds of senior citizens who get swindled out of $50,000 or less around the state. That has a major impact on their lives, but the number usually is not enough to trigger the public outcry that the big scam artists do.

“Every day, there are people who wake up and try to figure out how to rip people off,” Gelber said.

Unfortunately in Florida, Gelber said those scammers really target seniors.

“Almost all the victims tend to be fixed-income seniors,” Gelber said.

State Rep. Keith Fitzgerald, D-Sarasota, said if he’s elected he will help Gelber get the specialized unit up and running. Sitting next to Gelber, Fitzgerald said Gelber’s plan would not just help seniors, but also restore faith in legitimate investments in the market. He said guys like Nadel have had a chilling effect on investors, making them fear putting their money in investments.

“There is a role for the state government to play here,” said Fitzgerald, who is running against Republican Ray Pilon in state House District 69.

Bondi’s campaign released a statement saying Bondi too would be aggressive in going after investment fraud and would make it a top priority if she is elected.

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