So, here’s the $50 billion question. How much did Bernie Madoff’s family know about his decades-long Ponzi scheme, if anything?
According to Bernie himself, along with the HBO movie made on his life that Robert DeNiro starred in, the television series Richard Dreyfuss played the lead in, and thousands of published stories, not a darn thing.
“Hold on,” says Bernie’s longtime secretary Eleanor Squillari. She said Ruth Madoff, Bernie’s wife, knew about it “way before” his arrest in December of 2008.
There’s a new book out called Madoff Talks, and in it business journalist Jim Campbell examines the life Madoff lived, which ended just over a week ago in a federal prison.
Campbell received unprecedented access to all the key players in the story, including Bernie himself. Madoff told Campbell he was simply “a product of the corrupt culture of Wall Street.”
The amount of information and records Campbell was able to use for this book is staggering. He had over 400 pages of communications with Bernie Madoff, included in that stash was emails and handwritten letters.
Back to the secretary’s hunch that Ruth knew more than she was letting on. Squillari told Campbell “I don’t think all these years Ruth knew, but I think she knew way before everybody else knew. They were very close.”
There is some evidence that collaborates her suspicion. Ruth Madoff told Campbell in the book that she first heard of the fraud at a family meeting on December 10, 2008. That’s when Bernie came clean to the family. According to court documents, Ruth took out $10 million from an account the Madoff’s had at a brokerage firm several days before Bernie’s arrest.
Campbell had seen company credit card statements, which showed that Ruth was spending $57,000 per month on Madoff company cards.
Did Ruth know something was about to go down? And that’s why she withdrew the $10 mill? Bernie can’t talk anymore, and Ruth denied it to the author when he said he found it hard to believe she didn’t know what was going on. “Jim, my integrity means everything to me,” is what she said.