Madoff's wife, son say they had no inkling of Ponzi scheme

Bernie Madoff's wife and surviving son both say they will never forgive him or his crimes.

Story highlights

  • "Everything I've been doing is all a big lie," family recalls Madoff saying
  • Madoff is in prison for swindling investors in the largest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history
  • His wife blames herself for her eldest son's suicide
  • Andrew Madoff: "What he did to me, to my brother, and to my family is unforgivable"
The son and wife of convicted stockbroker Bernie Madoff said they had no inkling he was running a $50 billion Ponzi scheme until he came home on a December night three years ago and gathered the family together.
"He said, 'I have a confession to make. I've been running a Ponzi scheme." He said, '$50 billion dollars,'" recounted Madoff's wife, Ruth, in an interview with CBS' "60 Minutes" Sunday night.
Madoff's youngest son, Andrew, also appeared on the show -- their first television interview since Madoff pleaded guilty in 2009 of running the largest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history.
"He said, 'Everything I've been doing is all a big lie,'" Andrew Madoff recalled. "And then he just started sobbing. And I was-- I-- I was shocked. I-- it was-- I felt like my head exploded. I mean, I-- I don't think if he had told me he was an alien I could've been more surprised."
Ruth Madoff was too taken aback to comprehend the significance of his admission, the son said: "'What's a Ponzi scheme?' was her first question."
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Ruth Madoff: We attempted suicide
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Ruth Madoff tells of suicide attempt
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"I said, 'It's all fake.' It means dad's not been doing what he says he's been doing," Andrew Madoff recalled telling his mother. "My brother was trembling with rage. He was absolutely furious. Mark was the first one to stand up and say, 'I'm out of here,' and I immediately followed and walked out."
That night, Ruth and Bernie Madoff went to the company Christmas party, stayed half an hour and came home.
The next morning, the FBI arrived to arrest Madoff -- turned in by his two sons.
On December 11, 2010 -- two years to the day his father was arrested -- Mark Madoff's body was discovered hanging from a ceiling pipe in his Manhattan apartment, while his 2-year-old son slept in another room.
Ruth Madoff said she blamed herself for her son's suicide and for not cutting off contact with her husband as her son had once wished.
"I just wish, until my dying day, that I had done what he wanted," she said. "It's the most awful thing that could happen to anybody. Suicide of a child."
Madoff, 73, is at Butner Federal Correction Complex, a medium-security prison in eastern North Carolina.
He is serving a 150-year sentence after bilking investors out of their money by masquerading as the head of a legitimate investment firm while using funds from new investors to send payments to his earlier investors, falsely portraying them as proceeds when they were actually stolen money, prosecutors said.
"I can't explain it," Ruth Madoff said. "I mean I trusted him. Why would it ever occur to me that it wasn't legal? The business was -- his reputation, was almost legendary. Why would I ever think that there was something sinister going on?"
The wife and surviving son both say they will never forgive Madoff for his crimes and for what he has done to their family.
"What he did to me, to my brother, and to my family is unforgivable," Andrew Madoff said. "What he did to thousands of other people, destroyed their lives -- I'll never understand it. And, I'll never forgive him for it. And I'll never speak to him again."
Madoff's criminal activities spawned a tidal wave of civil actions against the family, accusing them of profiting from the Ponzi scheme.
As public outrage mounted over the crime, Ruth Madoff and her husband attempted suicide.
"I don't know whose idea it was, but we decided to kill ourselves because it was so horrendous what was happening," she said. ""We had terrible phone calls. Hate mail, just beyond anything and I said 'I just can't go on anymore,'" she said.
"We took pills and woke up the next day....It was very impulsive and I am glad we woke up."
The "60 Minutes" interview coincides with Monday's release of the new book about the Madoff family, "Truth and Consequences" -- a tell-all memoir, written with the family's cooperation.
In the interview, correspondent Morley Safer asked, "You know, there's a lot of a people out there who are saying, or will be saying as they watch this, "This is all a charade. This was something that the Madoffs set up to get themselves off the hook.'"
"I wish it were," Andrew Madoff said. "I wish it were. I wish none of this was real. You know, I knew-- I knew absolutely nothing about this-- before my father shared the information with me. And it was-- it was the most shocking and-- and terrible moment of my life."