Stephanie Madoff Mack, the widow of Mark Madoff, defends her husband’s innocence and blames his 2010 suicide on her former father-in-law, convicted confidence man Bernard Madoff, in a memoir published yesterday.
“I never doubted Mark’s innocence for a single second,” Mack says in “The End of Normal: A Wife’s Anguish, a Widow’s New Life,” written with Tamara Jones. “He was a hero. But Mark was too engulfed in his own pain to feel any of that pride himself.”
Mack, who says she changed her last name to try to avoid the intense scrutiny that went with the Madoff name, describes her marriage, her relationship with Bernard and his wife, Ruth Madoff, and her struggle to come to terms with Mark’s death.
Bernard Madoff, 73, was arrested and his firm forced into bankruptcy in December 2008. He pleaded guilty to running the biggest Ponzi scheme in history and is serving a 150-year sentence in a federal prison in North Carolina.
Mark Madoff hanged himself in the Manhattan apartment he shared with his wife and their children on Dec. 11, 2010, two years to the day after his father’s arrest. He was 46.
Mark Madoff, divorced with two children from his first marriage, married Mack in 2004. They had two children, a boy and a girl.
‘Clueless, Not Corrupt’
In the book, Mack says she believes Bernard Madoff’s family had no connection to the fraud. Her mother-in-law, Ruth Madoff, was “clueless, not corrupt,” she writes.
Mark Madoff and his brother Andrew Madoff both worked for the legitimate, market-making side of their father’s business. After his arrest, both said they had no knowledge of the fraud he ran for decades until he confessed it to them.
“That my husband might somehow have been involved in Bernie’s criminal operation never once crossed my mind,” Mack writes. “He and Andy ran a completely separate business.”
In the weeks leading up to Madoff’s arrest, Mack says, Mark told her that he and Andrew were worried about their father and had seen him sitting in his Manhattan office, staring at the ceiling for long periods of time. Mark thought his father was ill or dying, she said.
‘One Big Lie’
Mack tells of her husband’s shock and anger after his father told him and Andrew on Dec. 10, 2008, “It’s all one big lie.” She tells of meeting a friend in the apartment that day to discuss plans for a nursery for the son she and Mark would soon have. Mark interrupted the meeting with a phone call.
“It’s my father. My father has done something very bad, and is probably going to jail for the rest of his life,” he told her, according to Mack.
Mark and Andrew Madoff immediately turned their father in to U.S. authorities and he was arrested the next day, Mack writes.
After he was sent to prison, Bernard Madoff compared the facility to a college campus, with “lovely lawns and trees,” she writes. “I am quite the celebrity and treated like a Mafia Don,” she says he told her in a letter.
Mack was in Florida, at Disney World with their daughter, when Mark Madoff died. He had hung himself from a steel beam in their apartment, using their dog’s leash as a noose. Their 2-year-old son was asleep in the nursery.
Mack writes that when she woke up that morning, she found two messages Mark had sent to her. The first, with a subject line that read “Help,” said, “Please send someone to take care of Nick,” their son. The second said, “I Love You.”
Her husband earlier tried to commit suicide by taking an overdose of prescription drugs. He had written a note to his father, Mack says.
“Bernie: Now you know how you have destroyed the lives of your sons by your life of deceit. F___ you,” the note said, according to Mack.
One night at 4 a.m., about a month after Mark’s suicide, Mack wrote what she called “a bitter letter” to “Bernie.”
“I understand that you stole money from thousands of innocent people -- your children, your grandchildren, your entire family and even my parents,” Mack writes.“However, what you must know is that you stole the love of my life and four of your grandchildren’s father.”
She ended the letter: “I pray that your days in jail are as dark as they can be, because let me tell you, it’s much harder to survive on the outside -- and I refuse to let you ruin my life.”
A few days later, Madoff wrote back, Mack says.
“I pray that you never have to experience the pain and torment I live with every day. I would gladly give my own life if I thought it would bring Mark back,” Madoff wrote, according to Mack. “I blame myself for everything that has happened and nothing will ever change this.”
“You ask how I can live with myself. I can’t, and I don’t know how much longer I can go on.”