Madoff Employee Stuck With Mercedes-Benz S550

January 30, 2009

When explaining the difference between a schlemiel and a schlemazel, folks often use the analogy of two guys in a restaurant: the schlemiel is the guy who trips carrying a bowl of soup. The schlemazel is the guy who gets drenched. In which case, poor Craig Kugel is up to his eyeballs in borscht right now.

Kugel, you see, used to work for billionaire Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff. And one day--presumably while the guy was tending to a sick, sainted mother and minding his own business--Kugel was sent to Rallye Motors in Roslyn, N.Y to pick up a new car for Mr. Madoff. It seems the lease on Bernie's Mercedes had expired and he wanted a new Mercedes-Benz S550 to liven up his garage.

Sounds like an easy afternoon project, right? You work for a guy could buy the whole dealership with his pocket change, so how hard is it gonna be to negotiate a lease?

Only problem is, since the lease was going to be in Madoff's company's name, Rallye Motors asked for the company's financial and credit info. Madoff--schemer that he was--didn't want to hand over such sensitive information, so the dealership insisted that someone personally guarantee the lease. Bing bang boom, Bernie's brother Peter waved a magic wand, made Kugel a director so he'd have power to guarantee the lease, and next thing he knew, Kugel was on his way back over the 59th Street Bridge. Piece of cake.

Except, of course, for the part about Bernie being found out and going bankrupt and leaving Kugel holding the bag for a car with an estimated value of $100,000 and change.

As you'll recall, Bernie's lawyer has asked for Madoff to wiggle out of the six auto leases guaranteed by his company, but since Kugel signed for the Merc himself, he's not so lucky. Everyone's petitioning their little tucheses off, but we won't know anything definite until a hearing on February 4. In the meantime, don't take any wooden nickels or sign on any dotted lines.

[source: NYTimes]

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