December 11, 2010

A year ago two New York artists, who had lost their life savings in the Madoff scandal, threw a big, last New Years bash at their West Village apartment which they were forced to move out of.  The invitation read, “. PLEASE join us for a last fling … give this 1855 Grand Dame a proper send off. Madoff will be hung in effigy.”

A year later the cheeky invite feels a bit haunting with news that convicted swindler Bernard Madoff’s son Mark was found dead in his New York apartment.  The 46 year old investment banker had hanged himself with a black dog leash. As the Los Angeles Times reports:

Reporting from New York — The oldest son of Bernard Madoff committed suicide on Saturday morning, his attorney said.

Mark Madoff was found by family members in his New York apartment Saturday morning, according to law enforcement sources.

The sources said that Madoff hanged himself using a black dog leash and was found by his father-in-law.

Saturday is the second anniversary of Bernard Madoff’s arrest in what is thought to be the largest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history.

Madoff, 46, was the head trader at his father’s firm.

Mark and his younger brother Andrew Madoff, who also worked at the firm, have denied they knew about the fraud.

“Mark was an innocent victim of his father’s monstrous crime who succumbed to two years of unrelenting pressure from false accusations and innuendo,” his lawyer, Martin Flumenbaum, said in a statement.

Mark and his brother were never charged with any crimes.  But authorities are continuing to investigate the complex web of fraud that ensnared so many in the Madoff Ponzi scheme, and destroyed so many lives and institutions.  Just this week Irving Picard , the trustee tasked with reclaiming Madoff’s stolen funds, filed a $19.6 billion lawsuit against Austrian banker Sonja Kohn, accusing the former Monsey, N.J. resident of orchestrating a massive “feeder fund” of European investors that enabled Madoff to continue his deception. 

Over the past two weeks, Picard has gone after charities as well, filing hundreds of “clawback” lawsuits against organizations who benefitted financially from Madoff’s fraud.  The charities were not accused of taking part in the fraud, but federal law requires them to give back their gains nevertheless.  In most cases, these same charities, such as the American israel Cultural Foundation,  were the victims of Madoff, seeing their finances collapse when the gig was up.

The Madoff sons themselves are the target of multiple awsuits. In 2009, they and two other family members were sued for almost $200 million by Picard, and according to The Times, earlier this week Picard filed another suit in a British court.

Picard’s actions and ongoing criminal investigation, not to mention the enormous guilt and shame, may all have contributed to Madoff’s son suicide.  Mark and Andrew originally went to authorities to turn their father in after he confessed his crimes to them on Dec. 10, 2008. A day later Bernard Madoff was arrested.  Many people have speculated that once Madoff’s house of investment cards collapsed, he and his sons orchestrated the confession in order to shield his sons from prosecution.

Now, Madoff is in federal prison in North Carolina serving a 150-year sentence.  I can only imagine a father’s anguish of hearing about his son’s death.  I wrote in the days after the scandal broke that I only wish Jews believed in hell, because Bernie Madoff deserved a place there.  Now, I think it’s fair to say he’s arrived.

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