When news broke that Bernard Madoff had swindled thousands of people out of billions of dollars, many assumed that his family must have known all along. But Madoff's wife Ruth and son Andrew tell Morley Safer they were blindsided when Madoff finally confessed that he'd been running a giant Ponzi scheme. In their first television interviews, they describe how their once-happy family was completely destroyed.
The following script is from "Madoff" which aired on Oct. 30, 2011
Madoff...It is a name that will live in infamy...It's been nearly three years since Bernard Madoff confessed to running a $65 billion Ponzi scheme - the largest financial fraud in history. Thousands of trusting clients who felt safe investing with a financial genius were swindled. He hadn't invested a penny.
While Madoff is serving 150 years in prison, his family has had to deal with the consequences of his crimes. His wife Ruth, divested of most of her great wealth - and derided by a suspicious world. Their son Mark - dead. Driven to suicide by shame and accusations of guilt. Their other son Andrew isolated - trying to live with the disgrace.
Are they innocent or were they willing partners? For the first time since Bernie Madoff's arrest, his son Andrew and wife Ruth speak out about crime, punishment and the shame of being a Madoff.
Morley Safer: It's a tough name to live with.
Ruth Madoff: It sure is.
Safer: Do you feel the shame?
Ruth: Of course I feel the shame. I can barely walk down the street without worrying about people recognizing me.
And Andrew Madoff...
Andrew Madoff: From the very beginning of this whole episode-- I've had absolutely nothing to hide. And I've been eager, I would say almost desperate to speak out publicly and tell people that I'm absolutely not involved.
Andrew and Ruth Madoff speak out in the book "Truth and Consequences"- a more or less tell-all arranged by Andrew's fiancee Catherine Hooper. An attempt to separate the family from the father's crimes.
Safer: Is it dismaying for you that no matter what you say people aren't going to believe you?
Catherine Hooper: I think in many ways it is dismaying, but public opinion has to be something that doesn't matter to us. What matters to us is the truth.
Safer: It's really hard for people to believe that you didn't know, that you must have known.
Ruth: I can't explain it. 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?
It was 1954 when Ruth Alpern met Bernie Madoff in Queens, N.Y.
Ruth: I just saw him and I was sort of swept away, I think.
She married him at age 18. They had two sons - Mark, then Andrew. Bernie was building up his money management business - a typical middle class family living on Long Island.
Ruth: We were both solid parents and valued our family and so proud of our boys. It was a dream, really.
Andrew: My father was certainly present as a dad.
Safer: Did he emphasize moral values at all?
Andrew: I wouldn't say that we sort of explicitly discussed values. But we certainly lived what I felt was a moral life, where there was a clear sense of right and wrong.Deirdre Naphin and Katy Textor are the producers.