Madoff says he is happier in prison than free

Financial swindler Bernard Madoff said that he is happier in prison than he was on the outside because he no longer lives in fear of being arrested and knows he will die in prison, TV journalist Barbara Walters said on Thursday.

Walters, who spent two hours at the prison with Madoff two weeks ago, also told ABC’s “Good Morning America” program that Madoff said that while he had contemplated suicide during his early days behind bars, he lacked the courage and never thinks about killing himself now.

Madoff is serving a 150-year prison term for bilking investors out of billions of dollars in a decades-long Ponzi scheme that is considered the biggest financial fraud in U.S. history.

Madoff’s wife, Ruth, said in an interview to be aired on CBS’s “60 Minutes” program on Sunday that the couple actually tried to kill themselves by taking pills on Christmas Eve 2008 after the fraud was exposed.

“I don’t know whose idea it was, but we decided to kill ourselves because it was so horrendous what was happening,” Ruth Madoff said of the failed attempt.

Walters did not address the subject of suicide on Thursday. She said Madoff and his wife are now estranged.

The couple’s elder son, Mark, 46, hanged himself in his New York apartment on Dec. 11, the second anniversary of his father’s arrest. Mark and Andrew Madoff turned in their father to authorities a day after he confessed to them.

Walters said Madoff, 73, was distraught over his son’s suicide, and that his wife wanted to stop visiting him in prison after that and he agreed. He has not seen her since, Walters said.

“Ruth does not hate me. She has no one, and this is not fair to her,” Walters quoted Madoff as saying.

“He has terrible remorse, he says he knows that he ruined his family,” Walters said, adding that Madoff told her that with the help of therapy he does not think about what he has done, but “at night he says he has horrible nightmares.”

The interview, one of several involving the Madoff family to surface in the past week, was not filmed because cameras are not allowed in the North Carolina facility where Madoff is serving time.

Walters said Madoff speaks of being happier now because for the first time in 20 years he has no fear of being arrested.

“I feel safer here than outside,” Madoff told Walters.

“I have people to talk to, no decisions to make … now I have no fear because I’m no longer in control” and “know that I will die in prison,” she said he told her.

As for his crimes, Madoff said, “the average person thinks I robbed widows and orphans. I made wealthy people wealthier.”

Walters said Madoff told her, “every once in a while I find myself smiling, and I’m horrified.”

Mark Madoff’s widow Stephanie said in interviews ahead of the publication of her book that Madoff had boasted in a letter to her of being treated like a celebrity, and Walters corroborated this, saying that he told her the prisoners, “especially the younger ones,” treat him with respect.

Reporting by Chris Michaud; editing by Greg McCune

Ruth Madoff says she and Bernie attempted suicide in 2008 [VIDEO]

Ruth Madoff said in an interview that she and her husband, Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff, attempted to commit suicide in 2008.

Ruth Madoff told The New York Times that she and her husband made the attempt on Christmas Eve of that year in their Manhattan penthouse by overdosing on Ambien, a common sleeping drug.

She told the Times that although she could not remember whose idea the attempt was, she and her husband “were in agreement—we were both sort of relieved to leave this place. It was very, very impulsive.”

Story continues after the jump.

The suicide attempt came two weeks after Bernard Madoff was arrested for running a $64.8 billion Ponzi scheme. Three months later he pleaded guilty; he is serving a 150-year sentence in federal prison.

The Madoffs’ son Mark committed suicide last December. His widow, Stephanie Madoff Mack, revealed recently in interviews that it was his second attempt.

Bernie Madoff told the Times via e-mail that suicide “crossed my mind” after his arrest, but he felt he could help make restitution to his victims and he “could not abandon my family.”

Ruth Madoff broke her seclusion at the request of her estranged son Andrew, who had asked her to help promote a new authorized biography, “Truth and Consequences: Life Inside the Madoff Family.” Madoff Mack has also been promoting her own memoir, “The End of Normal.”

Ruth Madoff talks about the suicide attempt on the CBS news magazine “60 Minutes” airing Sunday.

Spielberg’s Wunderkinder Foundation joins list of Madoff victims

Steven Spielberg suffered some losses in the Bernard Madoff fraud scandal, though apparently nowhere near a rumored $300 million.

However, the famed filmmaker’s private Wunderkinder Foundation had some investments with Madoff, though Spielberg spokesman Marvin Levy said he was unable to detail the assets or losses of the foundation.

The Wunderkinder Foundation (translated as child prodigies) is a relative modest one compared to Spielberg’s much better-known Shoah Foundation and Righteous Persons Foundation.

According to the latest available public filing with the IRS, the Wunderkinder Foundation’s 2006 statement, covering the previous tax year, showed assets of $12,573,018 and grant distributions of $5,215,016. Spielberg gave $2 million to the foundation and is listed as the only donor.

According to press reports, Madoff managed 70 percent of the foundation’s dividend and interest income in 2006.

The lion’s share of the foundation’s grants, according to the IRS filing, went to the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, which received $3,338,000 for medical research.

The Ross School in New York City received $500,000 and the local Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services got $100,000.

Smaller grants went to some 55 diverse organizations and institutions, from the American Museum of Natural History to the Young Musicians Foundation.

From the Federation:

LOS ANGELES, Dec 15, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) — The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles has been advised by The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles that it, together with a number of other major philanthropic institutions, as well as individuals and for profit investment companies, is included among those which have been victimized by an alleged fraud perpetrated by the New York based firm, Bernard Madoff Investment Securities LLC.

The Jewish Federation, together with other local charitable bodies, has for decades participated in a Common Investment Pool (CIP) managed by the Jewish Community Foundation. The CIP invests, with the input of professional advisors, significant funds on behalf of the Federation’s United Jewish Fund Endowment Fund in a range of investment classes and vehicles. Among these has been Bernard Madoff Investment Securities LLC.

We have been informed by the Jewish Community Foundation that the Federation’s United Jewish Fund Endowment Fund may have sustained a loss of $6.4m as a result of the actions of Bernard Madoff Investment Securities LLC. This constitutes approximately 11% of Federation’s endowment funds as of December 2008.

Stanley Gold, Chairman of the Board of the Jewish Federation, stated, “We are both shocked and saddened to learn of this alleged fraud. The Jewish Federation is exploring various options to fully understand its exposure as well as how this occurred. We intend to aggressively protect and recover as much of Federation’s investment with Bernard Madoff Securities LLC, as possible. We will take all necessary actions to assure this type of action so hurtful to those who depend on our charitable organization never happens again.”

The Jewish Federation will continue to utilize the funds in the United Jewish Fund Endowment Fund to support its essential life saving work, at home and abroad, on behalf of the Los Angeles Jewish Community.

From The Jewish Community Foundation

LOS ANGELES (December 15, 2008)–The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles (The Foundation) today issued the following letter to the public regarding the impact of the collapse of the Bernard Madoff investment funds. The Foundation, the largest manager of charitable gift assets for Los Angeles Jewish philanthropists, stated:

Dear Friends,

The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles was shocked and outraged to learn that it is among the many victims of the massive fraud attributed to veteran Wall Street investment advisor Bernard Madoff.

The Foundation invested a total of $18 million with the Madoff firm, representing less than 5% (five percent) of the Foundation’s assets.

Donor Advised Funds were not affected by the Madoff fraud. Donor Advised Funds are held separately in Treasury notes and other government instruments.

The $18 million was part of The Foundation’s Common Investment Pool, set aside for long-term endowment-type uses.

The loss, while unprecedented in The Foundation’s 54-year history, does not threaten The Foundation’s stability, its existing commitments, or its ability to maintain its leading role in the Los Angeles philanthropic community.

Despite this loss, The Foundation has a long-term record of generating favorable returns from its investments. The Foundation’s emphasis on diversification, both of investments and of investment advisors, helped limit the impact of the Madoff collapse.

In light of the substantial recent declines in the stock market as well as the financial impact of the Madoff situation, The Foundation is re-evaluating its investment strategies and examining ways to respond to these changed market conditions. This process includes a full review of The Foundation’s policies, practices and due-diligence procedures.

The Foundation is aggressively pursuing every possible recovery and remedy related to the Madoff situation.

We are committed to a fully transparent sharing of information with our donors, supporters, grant recipients and the community, and will continue to report to The Foundation’s constituencies as we learn more. This will include updates to a dedicated page on The Foundation’s website at


Cathy Siegel Weiss Marvin I. Schotland
Chair President and CEO

Man of Mystery

Lucian Ludwig Kozminski was — or maybe is — a man convicted of swindling some 3,000 of his fellow Holocaust survivors. Kozminski did time in federal prison and died, according to his death certificate, on Jan. 19, 1993, in Los Angeles County.

Ordinarily, this would be the end of the sordid tale of a man who preyed on his own people. Instead, it is only the beginning of a mystery, full of intrigue and skullduggery, which Dateline NBC will telecast under the title, "Final Betrayal."

It is also the story of Mark E. Kalmansohn, a Los Angeles lawyer and former federal prosecutor, who for 20 years has sought to bring Kozminski to justice. Even today, Kalmansohn is not sure whether the man nicknamed the "Schwindler" (German for swindler) by Holocaust survivors and "The Weasel" by federal officials, is dead or alive.

Even Kozminski’s birthdate and age are in dispute, but apparently he was in his early teens when the German army invaded Poland in 1939. In short order, the Nazis killed Kozminski’s parents, two sisters and a brother, and sent the boy first to the Lodz ghetto and then to various concentration camps, including Auschwitz and Gross-Rosen.

Despite his youth, Kozminski quickly rose to Oberkapo, the SS-appointed overseer of other Jews and, according to survivor testimony at his trial, walked around Gross-Rosen in boots and a heavy sweater, while other Jews tried to survive the winter in tattered clothes.

After the war, Kozminski settled near Munich, and between 1963 and 1967 was convicted of six crimes, including smuggling, bribing of officials, and running a scam involving the refurbishing of graves of Polish Holocaust victims.

Nevertheless, Kozminski managed to enter the United States on a visitor’s visa, settled in the Fairfax area, and in 1969 advertised his services in Jewish newspapers as a "reparations counselor," who could obtain restitution money from the German government due Holocaust survivors.

Over the next decade, according to court records at his 1982 trial, Kozminski swindled some 3,000 of his clients, charging exorbitant up-front and service fees and pocketing the German checks intended for the survivors.

Kalmansohn, who as assistant U.S. attorney prosecuted Kozminski, estimates that he accumulated $1 million, which, with inflation and interest, would be worth $10 million today.

Two of Kozminski’s victims, still living in the Los Angeles area, are Jacob Weingarten, a retired house painter, and Modka "Max" Wolman, a retired television repair shop owner. They took their complaints to federal authorities and the criminal case was assigned to Kalmansohn in 1982. After he and Postal Inspector Lou Kinzler obtained grand jury indictments, Kozminski pleaded guilty to eight counts of mail and bankruptcy fraud and was sentenced to 12 years in federal prison.

Records from the Bureau of Prisons show that Kozminski was released in 1989, even though he was spotted walking a street in Beverly Hills in 1987.

The trail appeared to be at an end when a death certificate bearing Kozminski’s name was filed in Los Angeles County in early 1993, and the authorities closed the case.

Kalmansohn was by then in private practice, but his obsession with the case had only intensified after meeting with Holocaust survivors in Israel. He decided to scrutinize the death certificate, and found that it listed someone else’s Social Security number, the description of the body in no way matched Kozminski’s actual appearance, and the purported age at death was off by 10 years.

In addition, someone cashed Social Security checks in Kozminski’s name for 26 months after his "death," and there were continuous reports that he had been sighted, most recently only two years ago.

On the basis of this evidence, and in the belief that Kozminski could have faked his death to avoid paying survivors their rightful money, Kalmansohn filed civil suits against Kozminski on behalf of Weingarten and Wolman. In 1999, Judge John W. Ouderkirk ruled that Kozminski’s death certificate was "false and/or fraudulent" and that "Defendant Kozminski may be alive today at an unknown location."

A year later, a second judge concurred in the earlier finding.

Kalmansohn, now an entertainment and intellectual property lawyer in Century City, continues to be haunted by the case. He deals with it in his 440-page book, "Nothing Is Too Late," which he expects to be published by next year, and he hopes that the interest generated by the NBC program might lead to further clues about the elusive Kozminski.

"I really don’t know whether Kozminski, who would be 76 to 78 years old, is dead or alive," Kalmansohn says. "To cite Winston Churchill’s observation on Russia, the case remains ‘a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.’"