Bernie Madoff's Daughter-in-Law on Husband's Suicide and Bernie's Crime

Mark Madoff’s widow on her husband’s suicide and how Bernie told his family: “It's all one big lie.”

Kathy Willens / AP Photo

The moment Bernie confessed to his family (p. 15-18)

One day in the early winter of 2008, Bernie Madoff sat his family down and told them about his Ponzi scheme. “It’s all one big lie,” he said. “There were no investments, no brilliant returns, just somewhere around $50 billion in debts that he couldn’t pay,” Stephanie writes. “When he was done, he began to cry.” Then Bernie said he would distribute about $140 million in “bonuses” to his family and friends, and talk to his lawyer about turning himself in. Mark was shaking with rage, and grabbed his brother Andy. “Let’s get the fuck out of here!” he said, and the two stormed out. They then contacted the Securities and Exchange Commission and turned their father in.

Mark’s innocence, and being a “hero” (p. 81-84)

Stephanie vehemently defends her husband, saying that she never doubted his innocence for a second. According to her, Mark and Andy ran a completely separate business from their father, and when investigators found about $140 million in signed “bonus” checks in a desk drawer when they raided Bernie’s office, “that was a $140 million holdup-in-progress that my husband and his brother stopped. I was enormously proud that I was with the man who did the right thing... He was a hero.”

Bernie’s apology (p.94)

Bernie’s only apology came in mid-January 2009. He sent a text message to Mark’s BlackBerry that read: “I’m sorry for all the pain I’ve caused you. I love you. Love, Dad.” Mark and Stephanie feared that it might be a suicide note. Mark contacted the U.S. Marshals keeping watch outside Bernie’s building, and they rushed in to find him calm and lucid.

Ruth, Bernie’s wife, hiding in the trunk of a car (p.112-113)

When all Madoff assets were frozen, Bernie’s wife Ruth had to report any expenditures over $100. She was evicted from her penthouse and allowed to only keep a few boxes of basic necessities. She hid in the trunk of a car so the media would not see her humiliating exit. She fought hard to keep the $69 million in assets that her lawyers claimed were “unrelated” to the fraud, but settled for $2.5 million, which became the target of civil suits. She had to live under an alias, Jane Green. The blond-haired Ruth wore a brown wig and later dyed her hair red, but it was “ridiculous.”

Mark’s first suicide attempt (p.148-158)

In September 2009, 60 Minutes ran an interview with Irving Picard, the trustee of assets seized from Bernie. Correspondent Morley Safer and Picard suggested that Mark, “of all the people that should have known… should have known.” Mark was furious and 19 days later, he tried to kill himself. Stephanie and Mark had a fight about Ruth, who had dinner with Mark’s ex-wife, Susan. (“I don’t understand why that controlling bitch is always in our life,” Stephanie said about Susan.) As the fight escalated, Mark left just before 9 a.m., and then went missing. She called 911, and later, when the apartment was surrounded by police, he returned. “I took 30 Ambiens and did not expect to wake up. What the fuck does a guy have to do to kill himself?” he said. He had checked into a nearby hotel and swallowed the pills, leaving a note on the night table: “Bernie: Now you know how you have destroyed the lives of your sons by your life of deceit. Fuck you.” He was taken to the psychiatric emergency unit, and discharged after a week.

Mark’s suicide (p.169-175)

Two years after Bernie Madoff’s arrest, Mark found himself at home in New York with his son, while his wife Stephanie was at Disney World with their daughter and her parents. The day before she’d planned to fly home, Stephanie received a distressed email from her husband regarding an unexpected Wall Street Journal article that implied police were relying on former Madoff employees to help investigate Mark and other relatives. Despite assurances from Stephanie and her stepfather Marty that the article was not worth bothering with, Mark continued to express frustration over the harm his father’s case had caused his life and career. Very early the next morning, Stephanie received two emails from her husband, one instructing her to find someone to watch their son—who had been in his care—and one saying simply, “I love you.” Immediately suspicious, Stephanie sent her stepfather over to their apartment to check on Mark and the baby. He discovered his son-in-law dead, suspended from a steel beam in the living room ceiling. In an attempt to shield her daughter from the frightening news, Stephanie said she did not allow herself to fully react to her husband’s suicide, leaving her only able to think, “I will never forgive you, Mark Madoff.”

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Start of Mark’s 'book' (p.207-209)

Stephanie recalls Mark’s desire to finally set the record straight with a book of his own, sharing his side of his father’s sordid story with the world. Before he died, Mark got started on the first chapter of what he’d hoped would become his book. In the few paragraphs he wrote, he recalls looking up to his father and aspiring to be just like him, before he discovered the truth behind his success. He credits his father both with teaching him how to be the man, father, and husband he had become and with effectively ruining his business and reputation. He asks, “How do I explain to my children what I do not understand myself?”

Bernie’s narcissism (p.219)

“His narcissism might have been laughable if it had not been so dangerous,” writes Stephanie, of the countless interviews Bernie had done from prison insisting that he’s “a good person.” Mark was not the only person connected to Bernie who killed himself following his arrest. In fact, he was the fourth.

Andy “ensures” her silence (p.243)

Stephanie is suspicious of her brother-in-law’s sudden interest in her children and wonders if Andrew is attempting to silence her as his fiancée Catherine prepares to write a book about “one of the most controversial figures of our time.”