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To get accepted as a member at the Palm Beach Country Club — founded by Jews during the 1950s when the other clubs in this exclusive resort town were restricted — you have to be more than rich.

You have to be a real mensch, a person of character.

And the way to prove that is to show that you contribute a fortune every year to charity.

Bernard Madoff passed that test long ago, something his fellow members have suddenly come to regret.

Prosecutors say Madoff preyed on club members, scamming them for millions dollars and betraying the trust that is so valued inside the walls of the exclusive club.

Ninety-five-year-old Carl J. Shapiro, who thought of Madoff as a son and vouched for him with many fellow club members, told the Palm Beach Daily News that the revelations of Madoff's trickery were like "a knife in the heart."

"I think people felt that way, that he was part of the family. That's even worse," says Richard Bernstein, who has insured the assets of several club members. "A lot of people knew him for a long time. They didn't just meet him yesterday."

Even by the princely standards of this barrier island resort, the reported $300,000 initiation fee at the Palm Beach Country Club is phenomenal. But people like Madoff can't just buy their way in.


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