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Bernard Madoff Tells Barbara Walters He Feels Safe, Is Happy In Prison

(CBSNewYork/AP) - In her first interview since her husband's arrest airing Sunday at 7 p.m. on "60 Minutes," Ruth Madoff told Morley Safer that she and her husband, disgraced financier Bernard Madoff, attempted suicide following his role in a multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme.

Now Bernie Madoff has a surprising admission of his own: He is happy in prison.

Barbara Walters said Thursday that she interviewed Madoff for two hours at the prison in Butner, N.C., where he's serving a 150-year sentence. No cameras were allowed in the prison. Walters said Madoff told her he thought about suicide before being sent to prison. But since he's been there, he no longer thinks about it.

John Montone On Ruth's Admission, Bernie's Denial


According to Walters, Madoff says he has terrible remorse and horrible nightmares over his epic fraud, but feels "safer here (in prison) than outside. I have people to talk to, no decisions to make. I know I will die in prison. I lived the last 20 years of my life in fear. Now, I have no fear because I'm no longer in control."

Ruth Madoff
Ruth Madoff (credit: CBS/60 Minutes)

She also said he told her he understands why his one-time clients hate him, and that the average person thinks he "robbed widows and orphans.'' But he also told her, "I made wealthy people wealthier.''

Bernie Madoff was arrested on Dec. 11, 2008, the morning after his sons notified authorities through an attorney that he had confessed to them that his investment business was a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme.

He admitted cheating thousands of investors. He pleaded guilty to fraud charges.

Madoff, 73, ran his scheme for at least two decades, using his investment advisory service to cheat individuals, charities, celebrities and institutional investors.

An investigation found Madoff never made any investments, instead using the money from new investors to pay returns to existing clients -- and to finance a lavish lifestyle for his family. Losses have been estimated at around $20 billion, making it the biggest investment fraud in U.S. history.

Meanwhile, following Ruth Madoff's stunning suicide claim, some of the angry people her husband ripped off are also speaking out.  Madoff's  words are being met with much skepticism.

"These are not stupid people. I believe if they wanted to kill themselves, they could have killed themselves," Judith Welling told CBS 2's Tony Aiello.

Ruth Madoff told Safer it was Christmas Eve 2008 - just 2 weeks after her husband was busted for running the biggest Ponzi scheme of all time -- in the bedroom of their penthouse apartment, they tried to overdose on Ambien - a sleeping aid.

"She says she was utterly devastated, and again, I have no reason not to believe her," Safer told Aiello.

"I wouldn't believe anything she said. I wouldn't believe anything anyone in that family said," Welling said.

Safer said he understands the skepticism of some Madoff victims.

"You cannot blame the victims for doubting anything a Madoff utters, other than a full confession," he said.

Sound off on the Madoffs below

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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