Mark Madoff, the elder son of convicted swindler Bernard Madoff, committed suicide yesterday, two years to the day after his father’s arrest.
Madoff, 46, was found at 7:30 a.m. hanging from a dog leash attached to a pipe in the living room of his Manhattan apartment, while his 2-year-old son slept in an adjoining bedroom, said Paul Browne, a spokesman for the New York City Police Department.
Mark Madoff and his brother, Andrew, were under investigation but hadn’t faced any criminal charges in the Ponzi scheme that led to their father’s jailing. The sons, along with Bernard Madoff’s brother and five directors of the U.K. arm of Bernard Madoff’s investment firm, were sued Dec. 8 by Irving Picard, the court-appointed trustee recovering assets for Madoff’s victims.
“This is a terrible and unnecessary tragedy,” Martin Flumenbaum of law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison said in a statement yesterday. “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 had become increasingly distressed in the last week as the second anniversary of his father’s arrest approached and Picard sued his children, according to a person familiar with Madoff and the family. The person wasn’t authorized to speak publicly for the family and declined to be identified.
Adding to the pressure on Mark Madoff was the Nov. 18 arrest of Annette Bongiorno, a longtime aide to his father, and reports in the Wall Street Journal last week that she was being urged to cooperate in the investigation targeting the Madoff brothers, the person said. Mark Madoff was also troubled by the knowledge that the Journal was preparing an article for publication yesterday to mark two years since Bernard Madoff’s jailing, according to the person.
Ashley Huston, a spokeswoman for the Wall Street Journal, said “we’re declining to comment” yesterday.
Sometime after 4 a.m. yesterday, Mark Madoff e-mailed his wife, Stephanie, who was in Florida with their older child, to tell her that he loved her and to look after the children, according to the person. When she received the e-mail, she called her stepfather, Martin London, and asked him to go to the apartment because she was worried, the person said.
The New York medical examiner’s office ruled Madoff’s death a suicide by hanging. Toxicology and tissue testing, which has yet to be completed, isn’t public information, Ellen Borakove, a spokeswoman for the office, said today.
Confessed to Sons
The Madoff case came to light in December 2008 after the elder Madoff confessed to his two sons, who also worked for him in the business, that he had used money from new investors to pay earlier ones.
The trustee, Picard, had accused Mark and his brother Andrew of being involved in their father’s scheme because the separate business units they ran were actually part of one enterprise.
“Firm manuals provided that in Bernard Madoff’s absence, Mark and/or Andrew Madoff were responsible for carrying out the firm’s policies,” Picard said in court papers filed in May. The brothers both denied being involved in their father’s business in court papers seeking to dismiss the lawsuit.
Madoff’s death “is a tragic development and my sympathy goes out to Mark Madoff’s family,” Picard said in an e-mailed statement yesterday.
Picard sued Mark Madoff last year, claiming the son was paid $29.3 million for his services from 2001 to 2008 and improperly received $66.8 million for himself, his family and entities on his behalf. Mark Madoff was also accused of falsifying transactions to withdraw $18.1 million from his account. He had denied any wrongdoing.
Picard has filed hundreds of suits in the past month, seeking more than $34 billion from banks, feeder funds, investors and others alleged to have profited from Madoff’s decades-long Ponzi scheme, the biggest in history. So far, Picard has recovered about $2.5 billion.
Mark Madoff graduated from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor in 1986, and his brother, Andrew, 44, was a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in 1988.
The elder Madoff son joined his father’s brokerage in 1986 and became director of listed trading, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
In January of last year, public records showed Mark Madoff had accumulated a net worth of $8.3 million working for his father by the time he filed for divorce in 1999.
Bernard Madoff, 72, is serving a 150-year sentence at a federal prison in Butner, North Carolina. At the time of his arrest, Madoff’s account statements reflected 4,900 accounts with $65 billion in nonexistent balances. Investors lost about $20 billion in principal.
When Madoff was sentenced last year, the judge cited his failure to identify accomplices, making it harder for prosecutors to build cases against others. The receiver of his firm, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, has also said Madoff hasn’t substantially helped him, complicating efforts to locate assets.
A spokeswoman for Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, couldn’t be reached for comment. The U.S. attorney is handling the continuing criminal probe of the Madoff fraud.
Mark Madoff’s suicide isn’t the first connected with the scheme’s aftermath. Thierry Magon de La Villehuchet, chief executive officer of Access International Advisors, which managed $3 billion, took his own life in December 2008 after losing funds invested with Madoff’s firm, de La Villehuchet’s brother said in an interview at the time.