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Madoff’s Elder Son Found Dead in Suicide

Financier Bernard Madoff (R) with his sons Mark Madoff (L) and Andrew Madoff (C) during July 2001 in Montauk, NY.
Getty Images
Financier Bernard Madoff (R) with his sons Mark Madoff (L) and Andrew Madoff (C) during July 2001 in Montauk, NY.

Mark Madoff, the older of Bernard L. Madoff’s two sons, hanged himself in his Manhattan apartment on Saturday, the second anniversary of his father’s arrest for running a gigantic Ponzi schemethat shattered thousands of lives around the world.

“Mark Madoff took his own life today,” Martin Flumenbaum, Mark Madoff’s lawyer, said in a statement. “This is a terrible and unnecessary tragedy.” He called the dead man “an innocent victim of his father’s monstrous crime who succumbed to two years of unrelenting pressure from false accusations and innuendo.”

Police officials said officers responded to a 911 call about a “possible suicide” just before 7:30 Saturday morning from Mr. Madoff’s apartment building, at 158 Mercer Street on the edge of SoHo. According to Deputy Police Commissioner Paul J. Browne, officers found the body hanging from a dog leash attached to a pipe on the living room ceiling. He said there was no evidence of foul play.

Mr. Browne said Mark Madoff’s 2-year-old son was asleep in an adjoining bedroom.

Police officials said Mr. Madoff sent e-mails to his wife in Florida sometime after 4 a.m. Saturday. “It was more than one,” said an official, “at least one of which indicated that someone should check on his 2-year-old son.”

"This is a great tragedy on many, many levels." " -Attorney for Bernard Madoff, Ira Lee Sorkin

Police officials said the body was discovered by Martin London, a prominent New York lawyer who is the stepfather of Mark’s wife, Stephanie. Reached by phone, Mr. London declined to comment.

A person who spoke with Mark Madoff frequently in the last few weeks said he had been in “an increasingly fragile state of mind” and had expressed both continuing bitterness toward his father and concern about a series of lawsuits that were filed against him and his family.

Just last week Mr. Madoff, 46, was among the directors and officers of a Madoff affiliate in London who were sued by the trustee seeking assets for victims of the scheme.

It was the second lawsuit filed against him by the trustee, Irving H. Picard, who had had initially sued him last year seeking to recover approximately $200 million that the family had received in salaries, bonuses, expense-account payments and gains in their own investment accounts at the Madoff firm.

Mark Madoff
Mark Madoff

But Mr. Madoff was particularly upset that the trustee had named his young children as defendants in a lawsuit filed in late November seeking the recovery of money Bernard Madoff had paid out to his extended family over the years, according to the person who recently spoke with him, who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on behalf of the family.

There has also been speculation that members of the Madoff family were vulnerable to being prosecuted for tax-law violations, given the variety of low-cost loans and generous expense-account payments that were part of the office culture at the Madoff brokerage firm.

Since Bernard Madoff’s arrest, all the members of his immediate family have been the targets of a battery of civil lawsuits filed initially by victims of the Ponzi scheme and later by the bankruptcy court trustee.

These lawsuits are pending, and will not necessarily be derailed by Mark Madoff’s death. Typically, the litigation would continue against the estate of any deceased defendant, as was the case when Jeffry Picower, one of Bernard Madoff’s largest investors, died in October 2009.

Ira Lee Sorkin, a lawyer for Bernard Madoff, said he had not been able to contact his client at the North Carolina prison where he is serving a 150-year sentence for his crimes.

“But I’m very sure he has been informed,” Mr. Sorkin said, adding, “This is a great tragedy on many, many levels.”

A spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, Traci Billingsley, said “any time there is a death of a family member, and the agency is notified, we immediately notify the inmate.”

Inmates may request to attend funerals, she said, and those requests are considered case by case.

Peter Chavkin, a lawyer for Ruth Madoff, Mark’s mother, said simply: “Ruth is heartbroken.”

Mark Madoff had been a licensed broker at his father’s firm since June 1987. A number of Mark’s oldest childhood friends from Roslyn, N.Y., invested with the Madoff firm and lost their savings in the fraud. This destroyed those relationships and caused Mark great pain, a person close to the family said.

And on the advice of his lawyer, Mark Madoff has had no contact with his parents since the day before his father’s arrest two years ago.

TWO SONS CONFRONT THEIR FATHER

Financier Bernard Madoff with his wife Ruth Madoff and son Mark Madoff during November 2001 in Long Island, NY.
Getty Images
Financier Bernard Madoff with his wife Ruth Madoff and son Mark Madoff during November 2001 in Long Island, NY.

The steps that led to that arrest began when he and his brother, Andrew, confronted their father over his plans to distribute hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses to employees months ahead of schedule.

According to documents filed by the F.B.I. at the time of the arrest, that meeting led to a private conversation on Dec. 10, 2008, in which Bernard Madoff told his sons that their entire lives — all the wealth and success the family seemed to possess — were based on a lie. His apparently lucrative money-management business was nothing but an immense Ponzi scheme, and it was crumbling under the relentless pressures of the financial crisis of late 2008.

Mark and his brother immediately consulted a lawyer and were advised they had to report their father’s confession to law enforcement. They did so, and the following morning their father was arrested at his Manhattan penthouse.

The public fury over the stunning crime — Bernard Madoff estimated the losses at $50 billion — was not limited to its mastermind. Mark Madoff, his mother and his brother were all the subject of constant media speculation. Some blogs repeatedly predicted their imminent arrest, and many articles speculated that they had been involved in their father’s crime, or at least were aware of it.

But charges have not been filed against any of the immediate family members, and their lawyer has said publicly that neither Mark Madoff nor his brother has ever been notified by prosecutors that they were the subjects of a criminal investigation.

A person close to Mark Madoff said he had been increasingly distraught as the anniversary of his father’s arrest approached, and he had been upset at some recent news coverage speculating that criminal charges against him and his brother were still likely.

Gregarious and handsome, Mark was the more outgoing of Mr. Madoff’s two sons. At the University of Michigan, his social circle included students largely from other well-to-do East Coast families. He was a member of the Sigma Alpha Mu, a Jewish fraternity.He graduated in 1986 and moved to New York to join his father’s firm. Where most of his friends rented crammed studios, Mark lived in an apartment his father had bought for him in Sterling Plaza, a luxury high-rise on Manhattan’s east side developed by Sterling Equities. Sterling is controlled by Fred Wilpon, the owner of the New York Mets and a close friend of Mr. Madoff whose businesses had invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the Ponzi scheme.

Mark Madoff married his college sweetheart, Susan, and moved to Greenwich, Conn., where they raised two children. They divorced in the 1990s and Mark eventually moved back to Manhattan. He was remarried, to Stephanie Mikesell, and had two more children with her.

Peter Lattman, Liz Robbins and Tim Stelloh contributed reporting.