Ever since Bernie Madoff’s 2008 bust for running a $64.8 billion Ponzi scheme that ruined thousands of lives, his family has seemed plagued by tragedy — suicide, cancer, divorce, prison and humiliation.
On Feb. 17, the late criminal’s sister and brother-in-law were found inside their Boynton Beach, Fla., home. Sondra, 87, and Marvin Wiener, 90, were fatally shot in what appears to be a murder-suicide pact. Some 14 years ago, Bernie’s scam cost the couple some $3 million, forcing them to sell their luxurious home.
While serving a 15-year sentence for crimes including securities fraud, wire fraud and money laundering, Bernie died in prison last year from complications related to cardiovascular and kidney disease.
Here is how his family members have fared in the wake of Bernie’s greed-driven scam.
Wife Ruth Madoff
Bernie’s widow may have lost access to her husband’s $27 million private jet and 88-foot megayacht, but she continues to live a materially comfortable life.
According to Daily Mail, following a hiatus in an Old Greenwich, Conn., condo on the less affluent side of town (where places sell in the $500,000 range), she now resides in a 4,000-square-foot waterfront home valued at $3.8 million. It’s reportedly owned by her former daughter-in-law Susan Elkin, the first wife of Ruth and Bernie’s son Mark, who committed suicide by hanging himself in 2010.
Susan has since married Richard Elkin, boss of the water management company Gotham Technologies, who co-owns the home where Ruth, 80, has reportedly been living since September 2020.
Despite Bernie’s misdeeds, she still landed with $2.5 million, derived from giving up a claim to $80 million.
“No one to this day has been able to prove that Ruth knew anything about the crimes,” Andrew Kirtzman, author of “Betrayal: The Life and Lies of Bernie Madoff,” told The Post. “But [after the arrest of her husband] she was forced to change her name, dye her hair, move away [from their Palm Beach home and Manhattan penthouse] because of what happened.”
It is said that Ruth moved into the Elkins’ property so that she could be closer to her grandchildren.
According to Bernie’s jailhouse pal Ralph Griffith, it’s the life the fraudster would have wanted for Ruth. “He wouldn’t want to see her completely down,” Griffith, author of “The Real Bernie Madoff: Our 7 Years Together in Prison,” told The Post. “She lived a good life with Bernie and I think his attitude would be that this is good for her now.”
Sons Mark and Andrew Madoff
The sons, who both worked in their father’s firm, were not charged with wrongdoing — in fact, they helped bring him down. But one can argue that they both paid the ultimate price for the evil of their father.
“They were princes of the company,” said Kirtzman. “The assumption was that one or both would take over from Bernie when he retired. They lived fabulously wealthy lifestyles and neither one had a particularly rigorous work ethic.”
But the offspring, who worked in a different division than the one their father used for deception, notified authorities about Bernie’s transgressions after he confided in them and their mother.
“By all evidence, they felt bitter anger to their father until the days they died,” Kirtzman said. “Andrew blamed his recurring cancer on stress brought on by his father. Mark left a suicide note that blamed Bernie.”
It read, in part: “Bernie, now you know how you have destroyed the lives of your sons by your life of deceit. F—k you.”
According to Griffith, Bernie was most distraught about Mark. “After the boy hung himself, Bernie came in and talked to me. He really seemed shocked. Bernie claimed to have no idea why he did it. Bernie didn’t come out of his cell for a week [after Mark’s suicide],” he said. “That messed him up. I don’t think the son dying of cancer affected him as much as the son hanging himself. Taking your own life is different.”
Stephanie Madoff Mack, Mark’s widow and second wife, wrote a memoir about her experiences with the family, “The End of Normal,” which includes a chapter centered around her husband’s suicide. As of 2017, Mack was living in Dumbo with her two children, and she has reinvented herself as a wardrobe stylist.
As she told the Times back then: “I don’t want to get defined by Bernie Madoff and his crimes. I don’t want to be defined by the fact that my husband killed himself.”
Stephanie Mack, Deborah Anne West (then known as Deborah Madoff) and Susan Elkin were among those named in a multi-million-dollar lawsuit in 2012, in which trustee Irving Picard asked them to pay back money deemed “unjust enrichment.” (The women were later dropped from the suit under confidential terms).
At the time that Deborah Anne West married Andrew, in 1992, she was working in book promotions. By the time of his 2014 death from lymphoma, the two were estranged but not officially divorced. (West filed on the day Bernie was arrested.) She went on to change her name, distance herself from the Madoff family and maintain a low profile.
Catherine Hooper moved in with Andrew days after West filed for divorce and they soon were engaged. Upon his death, he asked his estate to pay her $50,000 per month for life. In 2017, she told People that she had not received any money. She claimed to be living in a 500-square-foot studio apartment with her then 12-year-old daughter and sleeping in bunk beds. “I downsized my life completely,” she told the magazine, “and sold nearly everything I own including the engagement ring that Andrew gave me.”
Brother Peter Madoff and Niece Shana Swanson
Following the unraveling of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, Bernie’s brother Peter, the company’s chief compliance officer, was sentenced to 10 years in jail for falsifying documents and lying to regulators. He served nine years at the Federal Correctional Institution in Miami — “Peter wanted to be in the same jail as Bernie, but the government wouldn’t allow it,” said Griffith — before receiving home confinement. According to the Daily Mail, he was released from that in August 2020 and resides with his wife in West Palm Beach, Fla.
Peter’s daughter Shana worked for the firm, with her dad, as a compliance officer. She was never charged with any crimes and was never believed to be associated with Bernie’s schemes. In 2007 she married Eric Swanson, an attorney who worked at the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Shana reportedly has a yoga studio, Yoga By Shana Swanson, in Westport, Conn. Its website describes “a personalized system of yoga that combines rhythmic breathing on Ashtanga Yoga with the alignment principles of lyengar yoga.”
Bernie and Ruth had six grandkids: Daniel, 29, and Kate, 26, the children of Mark and Susan Elkin; Anne and Emily, the grown daughters of Andrew and Deborah Anne West; and Audrey, 15, and Nicholas, 13, the offspring of Mark and Stephanie Madoff Mack.
According to Town & Country, they all changed their last names to avoid association with him.
While Bernie claimed that his most fervent wish to be released from prison so that he could establish a relationship with his grandchildren — whose fathers basically mandated that he not be allowed to see them — he was not always so nice to the young ones when he could have been. They were banned from his Upper East Side penthouse for fear that they would mess things up with sticky fingers or spilled crumbs.
But while Bernie was in jail, Griffith said, “he used to write pages by hand and send them to his grandchildren. He couldn’t type, so that was the only way he could do it. He was writing four or five page chapters that could be turned into a book. If I was his grandchildren, I would have kept them in a safety deposit box.”