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Trump: Madoff is a 'sleazebag'

  • Story Highlights
  • Real estate giant lashes out at suspect in $50 billion investment scheme
  • People were victims of their own greed, Trump says
  • Trump doubts that Bernard Madoff could have acted alone
  • Trump says he did not lose any money to Madoff
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(CNN) -- Voluble real estate mogul Donald Trump called alleged Wall Street scam artist Bernard Madoff a "sleazebag" and "a total crook" Thursday in an interview on CNN.

Bernard Madoff strolls down New York's Lexington Avenue after news of the scandal breaks.

Donald Trump said investors who lost money in a Ponzi scheme were victims of their own greed.

Trump recently hosted a party at his Palm Beach, Florida, estate, Mar-a-Lago, that was attended by several people who say they were victims of an alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme run by Madoff.

Madoff, 70, is a former chairman of Nasdaq. He was charged last week with fraud.

Trump, chairman and president of the Trump Organization, a New York-based real estate development empire, spoke with Kiran Chetry on CNN's "American Morning."

CNN: How angry are people at this situation with Madoff?

Donald Trump: ... The people in Palm Beach, many of those people have been just ripped off by this sleazebag, and they'll never see the kind of money that they've seen. You have some people gave 100 percent of their net worth to him in trust, because they trusted him, they trusted his family, they trusted everybody, and now they literally are selling their houses in order to live. And some of them mortgaged their houses in order to give that money to this Madoff. And it's really a terrible thing. I'd see him around Mar-a-Lago, I'd see him around Palm Beach -- and he's a disgrace. Video Watch the possible ramifications of the Madoff case »

CNN: ... How did he get away with this? How did so many smart people entrust somebody -- and we keep hearing over and over again, 100 percent of their money going to this guy. Would you ever let 100 percent of your money go to something, even if you trusted the person?

Trump: I would not, and a lot of my friends would not, but obviously a lot of my friends did. The word is very simple. It's a word called "greed." Greed. That's all it is. People were greedy. They thought he was going to get them a little bit more return, or a lot more return.

I mean, he was a Svengali for rich people. There are Svengalis for women; this guy was a Svengali for rich people -- very rich people. But when you think of a person putting up 100 percent of their net worth and even mortgaging their house, even though they had a lot of cash -- mortgaging their house to get more cash to this guy -- and now they're going to have to go out, literally, and maybe work in a drugstore. I don't know what they're going to do.

CNN: Did you lose money from Madoff?

Trump: No, I did not.

CNN: Some are blaming the [Securities and Exchange Commission], saying for years they did not investigate any claims. Chairman Christopher Cox said there were some credible accusations against Madoff made nearly a decade ago that were never referred to the commission to act. So what's your take on the oversight, how the SEC and government handled this?

Trump: I would not blame the SEC. This guy was a total crook. The people in his own organization supposedly didn't know about it. Now, that's another thing; I find that hard to believe. He's got two sons, and they didn't know about it? And they worked there for years? I think the whole thing is a swindle. I think even that's a swindle: The father said, "Look, you guys turn me in and pretend you don't know anything and I'll save my two sons." But it's impossible for me to believe that his sons didn't know about this.

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CNN: So you also think it's impossible that he acted alone.

Trump: I don't know how you could act alone. They had three floors of a major office building. How could one man be manipulating that much money without all of the people knowing -- without at least a large number of the people knowing about it? So I would certainly think that his sons are guilty.

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