Bernie and Ruth Madoff in Palm Beach, Florida, before his 2008 arrest. Madoff died aged 82 in prison on Wednesday
A journalist who became prison pen pals with Bernie Madoff and befriended his wife Ruth, regularly taking her out for lunch over the course of several years, has revealed some of the disgraced family’s secrets including how Ruth was spending $57,000-a-month when he was arrested.
Bernie died in prison on Wednesday at the age of 82. He had been fighting renal kidney failure and was in a wheelchair. It’s unclear now who will claim his body.
Ruth claims not to have spoken to him since their son Mark killed himself in 2010 because he could no longer bear the weight of the shame his father heaped on to their family.
The only other surviving Madoffs are Bernie’s younger brother Peter and his family, including his daughter Shana and son-in-law Eric, a former SEC investigator who failed to notice the largest Ponzi scheme in US history that his own relatives were running.
As questions arise over what will become of Bernie’s body, more details are emerging about his arrest and the life he and Ruth – his wife since 1959 – had been living before his house of cards came crashing down. Ruth moved out of Manhattan to Old Greenwich, Connecticut, after Bernie was sent down in 2009.
That is where she forged a relationship with journalist Jim Campbell, who took her out for lunch in exchange for interviews to inform his new book, Madoff Talks, over the course of several years.
In an article for The New York Post on Thursday, Campbell reveals what he learned from her and from hundreds of letters Bernie sent him from the FIC Butner in North Carolina, where he died.
In December 2010, Ruth had been spending $57,000-a-month on the company credit card, Campbell writes. She also, on the day of his arrest, withdrew $10million after visiting the office to give out Christmas gifts. Campbell didn’t disclose what exactly she was buying.
Campbell said that Ruth and her son Andrew – before his death from cancer in 2014 – were cooperative with his interview requests. They also vouched for him to Bernie, he said.
In one of his 400 pages of letters to Campbell, Bernie said: ‘Jim, I have no problem with what you have laid out. I must add that both Andy and Ruth felt good about your sincerity.’
It flies in the face of Ruth and Andrew’s claim that they did not speak to Bernie. Andrew insisted before his death that he cut ties with his father the minute he handed him into the feds and prompted his arrest in 2008.
‘Ruth has always insisted that she stopped speaking to her husband after their son Mark’s suicide in 2010.
Campbell first made contact with Andrew and then Ruth. Their first meeting, he said, was in Old Greenwich for lunch. Afterwards, he asked Ruth if he could take a picture and she responded by asking him: ‘You’re wired aren’t you.’
‘I assured her I was not. It led to years of lunches,’ he said.
Ruth was devastated by how Bernie, who she met when she was 13, had cheated on her multiple times throughotu their marriage including with a woman who he had a 16-year affair with.
Campbell claims Bernie also seduced the wife of an investor because he hated the investor. Bernie denied it to him. He didn’t name the woman or her investor husband.
Andrew told Campbell of their disgraced father: ‘He killed Mark quickly, he is killing me slowly’Mark Madoff with his wife Stephanie, right, before his father’s crimes were revealed. Mark killed himself on the second anniversary of his father’s arrest in December 2010. Andrew Madoff, right, on the Today show in 2011. He died from lymphoma in 2014. The two brothers said they never spoke to their father again after learning what he’d done
Campbell also claims to have learned for a fact that Bernie was running a $3billion legitimate trading fund alongside his Ponzi scheme. It’s unclear where that money is now.
Bernie had multiple affairs, including with Sheryl Weinstein – the former CFO of the Jewish organization Hadassah, who he had a relationship with for 16 years
Ruth now has to log any purchase she makes that is over $100 with the Madoff Victim Fund. It’s unclear how much money she has left. Before he was jailed, she made a deal with prosecutors to that she’d be allowed $2.5million to pay for his legal fees.
She has since reached a settlement with a small group of some of his tens of thousands of victims to pay them $600,000. It’s a tiny fraction of what he stole – $65billion.
Bernie also told Campbell how he convinced clients they were making money when they weren’t.
He had a file he referred to as ‘schtup’, a Yiddish word which means ‘sex’ or ‘push up’, where he’d calculate how much each client needed to think they were making every year, then he’d give them that number at year-end.
He insisted to Campbell that he could have made all of the trades he thought about but never did.
‘Jim I do realize none of these trades actually happened,’ he said.
The trades Bernie claimed to be making were larger than the entire market but somehow, the SEC failed to detect it. They didn’t even know he had a hedge fund, Campbell writes.
‘Over 40 years, the SEC missed what could have been uncovered in a well-placed 5-minute phone call to a Wall Street trade validating entity to see such returns weren’t even possible,’ he said.
Bernie’s coziness with the regulators was a crucial component of the case.
Jim Campbell interviewed Bernie via letters from prison and Ruth over lunch for several years. His new book comes out in two weeks