Every day for two years, he carried the toxic burden of a name that meant fraud to the world. On Saturday, the eldest son of disgraced financier Bernard Madoff hanged himself in his Manhattan apartment, another casualty in the saga that sent his father to prison and swindled thousands of their life savings.
On the second anniversary of the day his father was arrested in the worst investment fraud in US history, Mark Madoff, 46, was found dead in the living room of his SoHo loft. He was hanging from a black dog leash while his two-year-old son slept nearby.
People close to him said he was despondent over press coverage of his father’s case, an ongoing criminal investigation of Madoff family members in the multibillion-dollar scheme and his struggle to rebuild his life.
The intense scrutiny approaching the anniversary “became too much for him,” said a person who had recent contact with him, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case.
Mark Madoff’s wife, Stephanie, sent her stepfather to the couple’s US$6 million apartment after her husband e-mailed her at Disney World in Florida, where she was vacationing with their four-year-old daughter. In the messages, he told her he loved her and that someone should check on their two-year-old child, Nicholas, police said. He left no suicide note.
The person who had recent contact with Madoff said he was struggling to find steady employment and was upset by coverage of his father’s case, including a slew of stories in the past week about investor lawsuits.
“This is a terrible and unnecessary tragedy,” Mark Madoff’s attorney, Martin Flumenbaum said in a written statement. “Mark was an innocent victim of his father’s monstrous crime who succumbed to two years of unrelenting pressure from false accusations and innuendo.”
Mark Madoff and his brother Andrew, who notified authorities their father had confessed to them the day before he was arrested on Dec. 11, 2008, have said they were unaware of his crimes. However, they have remained under investigation and been named in the multiple civil lawsuits accusing them of profiting from the scheme.
Another law enforcement official said on Saturday that Mark Madoff’s arrest was not imminent, and that investigators pursuing possible charges against him, his brother and uncle hadn’t contacted him for more than a year. The official wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about the case and spoke on condition of anonymity.
Bernard Madoff, 72, swindled a long list of investors out of billions of dollars. He admitted that he ran his scheme for at least two decades, cheating thousands of individuals, charities, celebrities and institutional investors. Losses are estimated at around US$20 billion. He is serving a 150-year prison term in North Carolina.
The scandal has resulted in a half dozen arrests of Bernard Madoff associates and put a harsh light on members of the family, which has splintered since Bernard Madoff’s arrest. Both brothers hadn’t spoken to their parents since they turned their father in.
Bernard Madoff’s brother, Peter, played a prominent role in the family’s company. Mark and Andrew Madoff both worked on a trading desk at the firm, on a side of the business that wasn’t directly involved in the Ponzi scheme.
In February, Mark Madoff’s wife asked a court to change her last name and the last names of their two children to Morgan, saying her family had gotten threats and was humiliated by the scandal.