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On Friday night, Eleanor Squillari, an attractive 59-year-old with arched eyebrows and a heavy New York accent, stood on the red carpet of the School of Visual Arts Theatre in Chelsea with an employment story common to recent history. “I couldn’t get a job,” she said. “So I had the time to do this. I had to sell my home. But I wanted to take back control.”
If her lament was familiar, her circumstance was not. Unlike most other financial sector employees who found themselves without work in the midst of the Great Recession, Squillari’s previous employer was Ponzi scheme king Bernie Madoff, for whom she served as secretary. She was at the SVA for the Tribeca Film Festival premiere of “In God We Trust,” a new documentary that follows Squillari as she assists the FBI in tracking down those who helped Madoff carry out his scheme.
Squillari, who insists she knew nothing of Madoff’s crimes until he was arrested, brushed off questions about her involvement in the case. “I can’t be responsible for what everyone thinks,” she said. “I told my story, and everyone can make their own decision about it.
“I helped the authorities and that made me feel really good,” Squillari added. I think in America people held Bernie’s scalp up and said, ‘This is the face of the problem,’” said codirector Victor Kubicek. “And that’s not true. The problem goes much deeper than any individual.”
Later, at an after party on the terrace of the Gramercy Park Hotel, Kubicek’s filmmaking partner Derek Anderson explained that “Bernie was like the god of Wall Street.
“We have to make sure investors are really protected,” he continued. “The government has a lot to do.”
Guests at the after party included, Jack Huston and Shannan Click, Rosario Dawson, Arden Wohl and Tara Subkoff.
At least one cinemagoer on Friday had more than a passing interest in the film. “My father-in-law put his savings with Bernie Madoff to make sure my mother-in-law was taken care of,” said Heather Thomson of “Real Housewives” fame. “It was unbelievably awful.”