SCAM

By: Leslie Glass

Sarasota’s social season is usually in full glitter by the beginning of the year, but in January 2009, the parties were smaller and the mood subdued. After the three-year deflation of the housing market, the September collapse of the stock market and the banking crisis had made even the most complacent dowagers as nervous as […]


asset_upload_file704_27458.jpgSarasota’s social season is usually in full glitter by the beginning of the year, but in January 2009, the parties were smaller and the mood subdued. After the three-year deflation of the housing market, the September collapse of the stock market and the banking crisis had made even the most complacent dowagers as nervous as cats in a downpour. More houses were on the market, foreclosures abounded, and stores and restaurants were closing. Many socialites, spooked by their losses in real estate and the stock market, were cutting back on galas and dinners and donations to their favorite charities.       
But a few bright lights were still shining. In particular, Neil Moody and Art and Peg Nadel at the investment firm of Scoop Management, Inc. on Main Street , stood out as beacons of success and philanthropy. Nadel owned Scoop, which managed six different hedge funds totaling $360 million; Moody and his son, Chris, had hired the Nadels to manage the money in three of those funds, Viking, Viking IRA and Valhalla . Moody, the managing general partner of those funds, had just sent out a glowing fourth-quarter report. A number of Scoop investors were due to receive a total of $50 million in payments on Jan. 15, and they confidently expected their checks.  
While most investment funds were suffering crippling losses, the funds Moody, 70, and his partner, Arthur Nadel, 76, managed were, amazingly, still posting annual gains of around 9 percent. Moody, a platinum-haired sharp dresser with a reserved but confident air, was the public face of the funds; and Nadel, quiet and mousy, invested the money. No one really understood how Nadel’s system of averaging and trading prevailed even in the worst of times, but if you asked Moody about it at a dinner or cocktail party, as people sometimes did, he’d describe an approach that, although too complicated to completely follow, sounded impressive and convincing. 
And who could argue with 10 years of 18-48 percent gains?
A sports car collector with a rambling summer retreat built into the side of a mountain in Evergreen, Colo. , and a $2 million waterfront condominium at Golden Gate’s Bellasara, Moody had worked for Kidder Peabody and Paine Webber in the Northeast before moving to Sarasota . He was married to Sharon, blond and bubbly, a widow who had money of her own.
Moody seemed as generous as he was Wall Street-savvy. He served on various charitable boards, and he’d given a million dollars to the YMCA, another $250,000 to Sarasota Ballet and $100,000 each to the Sarasota County Arts Council and Designing Women Boutique. A few years ago, he had made the winning $30,000 bid to Tampa Children’s Hospital for the privilege of test-driving 13 of the world’s finest cars.
In fact, he was such a big donor to so many local charities that he had been honored in November at National Philanthropy Day, and he and Sharon were about to join the top echelon of Sarasota philanthropic couples as the honorees at the upcoming American Jewish Committee annual gala, which had previously recognized such major players as Bob and Diane Roskamp, Betty Schoenbaum and Bea Friedman.
If the Moodys, glamorous and wealthy, were at the pinnacle of Sarasota society, Art Nadel and his wife, Peg, were still on their way up. They were an incongruous-looking couple, the tall, slender Peg, a former model, now in her early 70s but still strikingly pretty, and the much shorter Art, who looked a little bit like Woody Allen. In a city full of waterfront mansions and Lexuses, they lived in a $300,000 home in a middle-class suburb in east Sarasota , and they drove a Subaru. But they were rapidly making a name for themselves.
Peg, a former president of the Sarasota Opera Guild, served on a number of boards and was “very, very generous,” says an arts leader who has worked with her over the years. Over the past few years, she and Art had given $200,000 to Catholic Charities, $100,000 to the Sarasota Opera, $100,000 to Girls Inc. and $750,000 to Habitat for Humanity, with a pledge for millions more. They had also contributed to local theaters and the Sarasota Jazz Club.
On Jan. 10, Peg had looked radiantly happy when she chaired the Sarasota Circus Gala and, for the second year, made the winning bid—about $2,000—for the privilege of performing with aerialist Dolly Jacobs.
Early in January, she had mingled with the town’s most influential people at social columnist Marjorie North ’s big retirement party at Michael’s On East, chatting and smiling, while Arthur stood off to the side, watching her with pride. Many of those guests were among the 350 investors in the Scoop funds. Peg often “pushed” people to go into the funds, says the chief executive of a local not-for-profit, who watched her in action at many events. “She was the front woman, who really used her social connections to ask people to invest,” the executive says.
But many investors came to Scoop, after they’d heard about the funds’ astonishing returns from their friends, or because they’d met Moody or served on a board with him or Peg. Some investors simply appreciated what the Nadels or Moodys had done for their favorite charities and gave them funds to manage as a kind of thank-you.
Molly Schechter, a wealthy volunteer and social columnist for the Longboat Observer, says that’s why she invested. Neil had been generous to many of the charities she supported, and she wanted to show her support for his venture. “That’s how it’s done. You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours,” she says.
Sarasota works like that. Social life and charity and money are all tied up with each other, and it’s only natural to do business with the people you meet and like and have fun with at dinners and galas and board retreats.
People may not have known much about the Moodys and the Nadels before they started making so much money for so many, but they did know that in times like these, Sarasota was lucky to have high achievers who could still create wealth and were willing to give so much of it back to the town.
But everybody’s luck—the Moodys, the Nadels, their investors, and Sarasota’s—changed on Wednesday, Jan. 14, when Peg Nadel called the police and reported that Art was missing. He had left her a handwritten note telling her that all the money was irretrievably lost. (Eventually, investigators would conclude that about half a million remained in the funds.) He knew that people would want to kill him for what he had done, Art wrote, but he would likely kill himself first.
Peg called the police, who immediately launched a search. She also called Neil Moody, who notified the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and said he was as shocked as she was. Indeed, everyone at Scoop declared they’d had no idea the funds were in trouble.
Scoop was owned and run by a close-knit group of two families and the friends of their children. Art and Peg Nadel, Neil Moody and his son, Chris, were the principals. Andy Martin, the funds’ administrator, went to Cardinal Mooney with Chris’s wife, Tamara, as did Michelle Bell, who also worked at Scoop. Michael Zucker, the husband of Sarasota school board member Caroline Zucker, was the accountant, although he was not a CPA.
It was up to Neil and Chris to inform the many charities and major investors, some of whom were also their closest friends, that the fund had failed. 
Many reacted with disbelief.     
“When Neil called to tell me the money was gone, I laughed,” says Schechter. She’d invested the required minimum, which was $100,000. “It was my funny money. I knew it could go sour, but I never thought I’d lose it all,” she says.
“I thought he was joking,” echoes Jean Weidner, one of the founders of Sarasota Ballet and a co-founder and major supporter of Designing Women Boutique. She had decided to invest $100,000 with the funds after she and the Moodys went on a safari in Africa together. “When you spend three weeks with someone, you become friends with them,” she says. “They were just very nice people.”
Neil and Chris insisted they were caught by surprise by the funds’ collapse and said they and other family members had lost everything, too. 
But many people who heard the news, including Julian and Emily Parry, found it hard to believe that Nadel could have acted alone. The Parrys were best friends with Chris and Tamara Moody, “joined at the hip,” Emily says. 
Emily and Julian are one of the town’s most visible young couples; their wedding at the Colony was a highlight of the 2006 social season. He’s the founder of Fun Friends, which sells novelty cell phone covers, and she’s a rising star at the Observer Group, which publishes the Longboat Observer and other newspapers, and is owned by her father, Matt Walsh. Julian had gone to Cardinal Mooney with Tamara.
Emily says she and Julian had watched in amazement as the lives of their friends were transformed almost overnight. “Chris and Tamara had been living in a rented house on University when Chris went to work for his father,” she says. “Then suddenly they bought a big house in San Remo , gutted and redid it. Then a year later they gutted it again.”
Emily says their young friends had seven cars and had become part owners in airplanes and Queens’ Wreath Jewels on St. Armands Circle. “You wondered if something was shady about it,” Emily says. “If my husband came home with a Maserati, a diamond as big as the Ritz and a jet, I’d sure ask him where the money came from. But Chris always had an answer for everything.” Still, despite their doubts, they had given Chris $100,000 to invest in the funds.
On Thursday, Jan. 15, at 7 a.m., Chris came to their house in tears and told them their money—and Art—had vanished. Emily and Julian had not seen Chris for the previous 10 days, she says, which was extremely unusual. They’d been wondering where he was and if anything was wrong. “That morning we knew it was all a big scam,” Emily says. “But you don’t want to believe it because it’s your friend.”
Neil Moody called charities that were involved with the funds, too, expressing his grief and shame. He promised one that he would do whatever it took to someday personally repay every penny. Investors called their families and friends, executive directors called their boards, and the news raced through Sarasota’s social world. By Friday morning, panicked calls started coming in to the Sarasota Police Department, and on Friday night the story broke on the Sarasota Herald-Tribune’s Web site.
White-collar crime detective Jack Carter spent the weekend interviewing the principals and almost a hundred of the victims. 
Detective Carter’s job was to identify as many victims as possible. This was crucial to establishing the magnitude of the case for the FBI and SEC. He says each of his exchanges was different.
“Some people couldn’t get through the interview without sobbing. Some were all business,” he recalls. “But it was heartbreaking. There were elderly people who lost everything and have no place to go.”   
Soon investigators reported that Scoop had collected a staggering $95 million in management fees for the $360 million fund. Unlike Bernie Madoff’s funds, which were a classic Ponzi scheme with fictional returns being paid from the funds deposited by new investors, it looked as if Nadel had actually invested his clients’ funds; in the early years, he may even have realized some impressive returns with his trading approach. But at some point, the funds started losing, and Nadel began falsifying reports. The more he inflated profits, the more management fees the partners could collect, since the fees were partly based on profits. As time went on, investigators believe, the funds did become a Ponzi scheme, as Nadel used funds from new investors to pay out returns; but it all fell apart last fall, when the stock market collapsed and nervous investors started taking their money out.
The Herald-Tribune pronounced it “the biggest swindle in Southwest Flo rida history,” and with the Madoff hedge fund scandal that had broken in December still fresh in everyone’s minds, national media jumped all over the story, calling the missing Nadel a “mini-Madoff.” The story appeared in The Wall Street Journal and regional newspapers from Norfolk, Va., to Portland, Ore. It was featured on Bloomberg News, CNBC and Yahoo, and NBC evening news anchor Brian Williams did a segment about it.
The police tracked Art to Slidell, La., when he called Peg on his cell phone, but he continued to evade capture. Finally, 10 days after disappearing, he turned himself in at the Tampa courthouse with his son, Chris, and Peg by his side. By then, the magnitude of the crime and a picture of the man who had engineered it had begun to emerge.
Susan Taylor Martin of the St. Petersburg Times ran a series of articles about Nadel with some surprising revelations. Nadel, she wrote, was born in New York in January 1933. His father was a tailor. Art was bright and a talented musician who paid his way through New York University undergraduate and law schools by playing the piano. In New York he married twice, had several children, and divorced twice.
In 1978 he moved to Sarasota and worked with Richard Sanchez to convert the historic Mira Mar hotel into condos. 
The project failed, and the hotel was razed. Failed marriages, a failed development—hardly unusual, especially in Sarasota. But in 1982, something happened that was momentous, especially for anyone who would be entrusted with handling other people’s money. That year, Nadel was disbarred in New York for taking $50,000 from an escrow account for another client to help Sanchez pay off debts to loan sharks. He had repaid the money after the client realized it was missing, but the bar ruled that “professional misconduct of such a serious nature” should prevent him from practicing the law.
Nadel knocked around Sarasota, playing the piano in restaurants such as Homestyle Harmony for a few years. In 1987 he married well-known Sarasota artist Virginia Hoffman and started the Sarasota Design Gallery, catering to interior decorators. According to Martin’s St. Petersburg Times article, he tried to attract investors with a prospectus claiming the business was profitable at a time when he was actually being sued for unpaid bills. Some of Hoffman’s friends accused him of selling their art works and failing to pay them, and the marriage ended in 1991.
Nadel soon married his fourth wife, Emelie Zack, but that marriage ended in 1995 in a two-day trial in which Zack asked for $68,000 and Nadel claimed he had lost a piano-playing job and had $128,075 in liabilities. Art ended up paying Zack only a few hundred dollars; and in the transcript, the judge noted that Nadel’s “poor reputation in the community, along with his responses under cross examination, all lead this court to disbelieve his position.”  
“Not readily employable” was how his lawyer described him then. But despite his checkered career, some who know him describe Art as “smart,” even “brilliant,” an engaging character who could regale dinner-table partners with “fascinating tales” of his adventures in the world of jazz, including traveling as part of the music press corps with Dizzy Gillespie in Cuba.
Soon after his fourth divorce, Nadel became involved with Peg Quisenberry, who would become his fifth wife, and Scoop Management was born. An arts lover and longtime charitable volunteer, Peg had been involved in a number of business ventures in Sarasota.  
“She’s incredibly smart, very cultured, fluent in French and can swing a sledgehammer or sing an aria with equal ease,” says Susan Danis, executive director of Sarasota Opera.
Peg and Art started a day-trading club called the Inside Scoop. At least 100 people joined. They collected dues and used the club to download market information, compare trading stories and give seminars on investing. Art and Peg also started a company that specialized in computer-generated trading of investment portfolios. It was Art’s beat-the-system bullet.
“We all thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread,” says Sarasota personal trainer Steve Ellis, who was a member of the investment club. Over the next 10 years, Ellis, who owned a small gym, invested every penny he could save. “I thought Art was the bank,” he says.
Former Tropicana CEO Brock Leach met the Nadels when they became donors to Habitat to Humanity, whose board he chaired at the time. He says he was skeptical about Art’s trading system. “It was a big mystery to me why investors would go along with something that had zero safeguards,” he says. Art invited him to visit the Scoop office to see what they did.
“There was a bank of computer screens that made it look like a real trading desk, and Art explained about making a point here and a point there. You could see that if you didn’t approach it skeptically you might be impressed. There was an underlying idea there, a black-box model for beating the system,” Leach says.  
But Scoop must have impressed Neil Moody, who decided to join his family’s fortunes with the Nadels. In 1999, Moody partnered with the Nadels; and Nadel began managing the money in the Moodys’ Valhalla, Victor and Viking funds. Neil’s son, Chris, who, like his father had a background working at brokerage firms, joined two years later. 
Neil was the “rainmaker,” according to the Gulf Coast Business Review, a likeable guy who self-deprecatingly described himself to one investor as “a good-looking salesman with blond hair. I’m not a rocket scientist.”  
 
Drawn by Moody’s charm and connections and Nadel’s trading magic, investors flocked to the funds. Some were reassured by the prospectus that Scoop’s general counsel, Holland and Knight, Florida’s largest law firm, had prepared for the fund. Diana and John Cloud heard about Nadel’s wizardry from personal trainer Ellis. They had used Holland and Knight when they sold their business, and Diana Cloud says they were lulled into confidence when they saw a name they knew on the papers Art showed them when they came in to interview.
“The papers were so thick and so glowing. It made them all appear to be successful Wall Street players,” Diana says. She invested $2. 5 million—and lost it all.
Even some investment experts were impressed by Nadel. Sarasota’s Don Rowe, the genial publisher of the Wall Street Digest, recommended the funds in a number of articles between 2001 and 2004 and steered investors to the funds for a fee. Rowe named Nadel “American’s Top-Ranked Money Manager” and wrote that he had paid a "due diligence visit to the offices" of Nadel and his partners. "After 26 years of reviewing the track records of over 11,000 mutual funds, 6,000 money managers and 5,800 hedge funds, Nadel’s computerized investment program has produced the best track record and most consistent returns I have ever seen,” Rowe declared.     
As the business grew and the profits rolled in, Nadel began branching out into other ventures. In 2005, he and Peg decided to invest in 430 acres in Black Mountain, N.C., where they planned to develop Laurel Mountain Preserve, an upscale mountain haven with lots selling for up to half a million dollars. But falling real estate prices derailed the project. They also invested in aircraft facilities, buying the Venice Jet Center (infamously known as the place where some of the Sept. 11 hijackers took flying lessons) and Tradewind Aviation in Atlanta, which owned a number of aircraft.
In 2005 they bought Home Front Homes/Green Building Systems, which had developed inexpensive and energy-efficient modular homes—“Katrina cottages”—after the 2004 hurricane that devastated New Orleans. And they purchased Mr. Florist, a popular Sarasota florist shop.
Their philanthropic endeavors were also expanding, as they gave money to the opera, Catholic Charities, Girls Inc. and other organizations. They combined business and charity when they pledged several millions to Habitat for Humanity to sponsor a housing project with the understanding that Habitat would put a dozen Home Front Homes there. Habitat agreed, purchasing land on Central Avenue and beginning the project. The Nadels did give Habitat $750,000, but Leach says the collapse of the funds has resulted in eight layoffs for Habitat and will reduce the number of homes they can build.  
Some who knew him believe Art became distracted by these new business interests. When people asked him how he could be trading on all of his travels, he told them that he could work from anywhere. But in the fall of 2008, some friends thought he looked thin and worried. And according to Brock Leach, Peg told him in October 2008 that “Art felt that he was losing his touch.”
By February and March, lawyers were assembling like grand armies. On April 29, Art Nadel was indicted by a New York grand jury on 15 counts of securities fraud, mail fraud and wire fraud.
In March, he was sent to the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York, the same jail where mega-swindler Bernie Madoff resides. Nadel’s high-profile Tampa defense attorneys dropped him when he couldn’t pay his legal fees, and in April, a judge assigned him a federal public defender. He has pleaded not guilty; if convicted, he could spend the rest of his life in prison.
So far, no one else has been charged with a crime, although various lawsuits have been brought against the Moodys, whose assets have been frozen, and lawyers are suing Holland Knight. The Moodys have been cooperating with the authorities, and some speculate that officials are waiting to extract all the information they can from them before they charge them, too.
Don Rowe of the Wall Street Digest has also been sued. The lawsuit quotes Rowe’s statement that he had conducted a due diligence visit to the fund offices, then counters that in fact, “none of the hedge funds had audited financial statements, that the accountant for the hedge funds had lost his license to practice as a certified public accountant in Flo rida, and that investors had paid extraordinary fees—totaling more than $90 million by the time this fraud was discovered—to Mr. Nadel and his business partners, Neil Moody and Christopher Moody.” Rowe, a popular fixture at the Sarasota Orchestra and other arts and charitable events, had a stroke the day he learned about the lawsuit.
The story is still unfolding, not only for Nadel and his associates at Scoop, but for the investors and businesses and charities who lost so much when the funds went down. Some victims say they felt numb for the first few days, only slowly grasping that their beloved homes, full of art and furniture, were going to have to be sold—and most likely at a fraction of their former value, because of the deflated real estate market.
One woman describes the pain of seeing dealers pawing through her possessions, offering a few hundred dollars for family heirlooms or jewelry that had cost tens of thousands. Others have already lost their homes and moved in with friends and relatives.
“Your heart sinks,” says a widow in her 70s, who lives in a big waterfront home on one of Sarasota’s barrier islands. She says she has only a few thousand dollars in the bank, and her home is now listed as a short sale. “You weigh every purchase,” she says. “Do I get the heartworm medicine for the dog, or my vitamins? What can I get at Publix that will last all week? Going out to dinner is out of the question. And there will never be relief from it. This is my life now. There’s no one to take care of me.”
Sarasota lawyer Morgan Bentley is representing 36 investors who lost from $500,000 to $8 million. One is an airline pilot who was counting on his investments with Scoop to fund his retirement. “He never missed paying a bill in his life,” says Bentley. Now at 66, the former pilot has filed for personal bankruptcy and “is looking for any kind of work he can get, including bagging groceries.”
About 80 of the 350 who invested in the funds are estimated to have received “false profits” and could be forced to repay the money to distribute among the victims. Some have already agreed to pay the money back; others may have to struggle to come up with funds they spent long ago.  
Businesses have suffered as well. Tina Little says Neil and Chris Moody dragged her into a financial nightmare when they bought 40 percent of her Queens’ Wreath Jewels on St. Armands Circle.
“Four years ago, I was selling big jewelry, doing events all by myself,” she says. “Neil Moody was a customer and kept asking, ‘Don’t you need money? Don’t you need some support?’ He approached me several times offering to grow my business, and eventually I had a meeting with Neil and Chris. They were well respected in the community, had deep ties at the Y, and good friends invested with them.” She sold Chris and Neil 20 percent each of the business and used the funds to renovate the store and expand.  
Part of the agreement was that Tina had to invest her own earnings in Moody’s fund. When Neil told her the money was gone, Tina says, “I could not understand all at once how that would affect me. All I ever wanted was to match people with beautiful pieces they will love forever and pass down in their families.” After the funds collapsed, the receiver seized $650,000 worth of jewelry that Neil and Chris had bought for the store.
Little says she now has regained full ownership of her business, which recently moved to Main Street, and is putting the experience behind her.
“We were all stupid. We wanted the money, and didn’t do our homework,” she says. “But there’s no point in being angry at the world.”
The effects on the city’s arts and social services may last longer. The millions that flowed from Scoop’s partners into a host of different charities are gone, and people and programs are being slashed from organizations all over town. The funds’ collapse has hit big ones, like the YMCA Foundation, which lost 13 percent of its assets when Moody’s million-dollar gift disappeared, and small ones, like the Jazz Club, which had to cut most of its scheduled concerts, which had been funded with donations from Nadel. And donors who invested with the Scoop partners partly because of their charitable connections now have less—or even nothing—to give.
People are confused about the Moodys and Peg Nadel. Are they criminals or dupes? In the case of Neil Moody, Molly Schechter thinks it’s the latter. “Neil Moody is not a predator,” she declares. “He’s a damn fool.”
Morgan Bentley disagrees. “I think the Moodys are up to their necks in this thing,” he says.
He points out that in a report Scoop commissioned in 2003, outside evaluators found serious problems, from inadequate internal controls to operational deficiencies, and concluded that the accounting and the performance of the fund could not be certified for accuracy. Its recommendation that the firm hire a nationally recognized accounting firm was never followed. Moody has said he asked Nadel for audits but Nadel refused. “For someone with years of brokerage experience and a Series 7 license, that’s a huge red flag,” says Bentley.  
Whatever their guilt, the Moodys and Peg evoke anger and outrage in their former social circles. One investor assailed Sharon for having a facial at the Met spa a few days after the news broke. “It’s probably my last facial ever,” she tearfully replied. Bentley says he gets calls from people who are furious because they saw Neil and Sharon at the Field Club and want to know what he can do about it. 
“At least Art had the good sense to flee,” he says.
When Emily Parry saw Chris Moody on the street a week after he told her their money was gone, he complained to her, “I’m working a full-time job that I don’t get paid for.” The remark shocked her. “He was working with the FBI and SEC and whining about not getting paid for cooperating with the authorities!” she says.
Peg Nadel, on the other hand, comes across as grief-stricken and pitiful. “Whatever happened was not deliberate,” she insists. When Art was arrested, friends say that Peg was frantic with worry about his mental state and physical health. Some felt she didn’t understand he had betrayed her trust or grasp the enormity of the crime he was accused of committing.
A few weeks after the arrest, Peg was slated to be honored at an evening event for her donations to St. Jude Catholic Church.  Despite the breaking scandal, she planned to go, only changing her mind a few days before the event. Several months later, she called a charity and said she wanted to attend a luncheon and to be seated “with sympathetic people.” After looking over the guest list, a staff member says, they had to tell her, “It probably was not going to be pleasant for her if she came.”  
The Scoop scam that’s rocked Sarasota’s social world is shocking, but it’s hardly our city’s first. Get-rich schemes and flashy newcomers are part of Sarasota’s DNA, from our founding father, circus showman John Ringling, to the decades of developers who have fleeced the town for grand edifices that never rose. Making inroads into Sarasota society is easy. We’re a fluid place full of newcomers, with short memories and too much trust in the next new arrival with larger-than-life charm or a big idea.
And it’s easy to forget about common sense or ignore red flags when that big idea just might make us rich. One trader, no audits, a modest storefront on Main Street—none of those alarm signals deterred investors. Some were even warned. “People knew that Art had been disbarred,” Virginia Hoffman, his third wife, says. “I told them. But they just didn’t want to believe it.”
As it turned out, Nadel and his partners got all the credibility they needed through their connection with the charities that define and distinguish Sarasota. You can be a power-mad trophy wife, a disbarred lawyer or just about anything else. Work on a gala, you’re in. Give a few thousand dollars, you’re even better. Give a little more, and you can join a major board or get your name on a building, or a room, or a toilet. Instant social standing, tons of new best friends, and easy access to everybody’s checkbooks and trust accounts.
Many others have played the charitable game to work their schemes, but unfortunately, says Bentley, the Scoop players struck at a time when a “perfect storm” of other financial blows made Sarasota’s philanthropic world unusually vulnerable. In addition to the real estate and stock market crashes, he says, we had “Madoff, Nadel and Stanford.” (Houston-based Stanford Financial Group is in receivership after the SEC in February accused it of operating “a massive Ponzi scheme”; its Longboat Key office, which supported high-profile local charities, is closed).  
As a result, enormous amounts of Sarasota wealth have disappeared. That could have serious consequences for our entire community. “We’ve always been able to count on our wealthy, retired people to shelter us from economic downturns,” Bentley says. “It’s been our ace in the hole. But now those people have really been hit hard, and it’s going to be devastating.”