Former Billionaire Loses It All, Reduced to Begging
Just before summer began, parents of children attending Camp JRF, a Jewish redoubt in the Pocono Mountains, received an unexpected letter.
‘I’m faced with creditors who are trying to take away my home,’ the letter said. ‘I need your financial help to save my home and to clean up the mess so I can start making a living.’
The author was Aaron Ziegelman, 84, a onetime real estate mogul who used to shuttle among his buildings in New York City in a chauffeur-driven Jaguar. He has also been a major benefactor of the Reconstructionist movement of American Judaism, with which the camp is affiliated.
Now, it seemed, he was broke.
The letter, which Mr. Ziegelman also sent to people in real estate, philanthropy and other circles, drew donations and handwritten replies of support from friends and acquaintances, including the developer George Klein and Saul Zabar, president of Zabar’s, the gourmet supermarket on the Upper West Side, near Mr. Ziegelman’s apartment.
‘He gave me a half-inch pile of documents that he says will show his transactions were successful and did not precipitate his current problems,’ said Mr. Zabar, who promised him $5,000. ‘I didn’t look. I’m not interested. I felt badly for him.’
Others, though, have a different view of Mr. Ziegelman. They accuse him of being a con man who has engaged in Ponzi schemes.
In lawsuits filed last year, his longtime business partner, former friends, a cousin and other investors claim that he owes them millions of dollars.
This is sad, but if he was running a ponzi scheme like Madoff, he should be happy to be just broke and not in jail. It sounds like he did some really sleazy shit. Still, it sucks to be 84 years old and have nothing. Maybe the Federation will help him out.