"Those kids grew up together, Jeff Wilpon and the Madoffs," said Little Rick. He said the younger Wilpon had arranged for his girlfriend, Linda, to work at the Madoff firm and when she tried to break off their relationship, it turned ugly. Little Rick says that when the argument flared up inside the restaurant, he and another employee, "Big Rick," took Wilpon outside, "right by the edge of the river." The two Ricks, hired from the streets of Brooklyn and the Bronx, are not men to mess with. "And we told him, 'Listen, you're done. Don't ever do that again." A spokesman for Jeff Wilpon said Wilpon confirmed the relationship with Linda but did not recall the conversation with Big and Little Rick.
Mark and Andy's first assignment was the trading room of Madoff Securities. "I remember Mark said that he would prefer to answer the phones and his father was like, "No, it's time for you to go in there.' It was a lot of pressure," explained Eleanor.
His boys soon took over the day-to-day management of the busy trading operation, sitting at a desk on an elevated platform, their father's office directly behind them. "He was able to look out and see his sons in the front," said Eleanor.
Everywhere he looked, a proud Bernie Madoff could see family. Andy and Mark were at the trading desk. Ruth helped to keep the firm's books and balance the checking account from her office on the eighteenth floor. His younger brother, Peter, served as the chief compliance officer and was the executive who oversaw Andy and Mark on the trading floor. Peter's wife, Marion, was also on the company payroll at $163,500 a year, although the bankruptcy trustee said there was no evidence that she did any work. Peter's daughter and Bernie's niece, Shana, became the firm's compliance lawyer after graduating from Fordham Law School in 1995. Peter's son, Roger, worked there briefly until his death from leukemia in 2006. Another Madoff nephew, Charlie Weiner, the son of Bernie and Peter's sister, Sondra, had started on the trading floor in 1980.
"It was one big happy family," recalled a former employee. "They all seemed so clean cut and close." Inside the family, however, there were some who feared Madoff, including his niece. "Shana tried to do everything perfect because she was afraid Bernie would yell at her," said Eleanor. All of the Madoffs, however, respected his power over them and regarded Bernie like the king of a royal family, or, some would say, the capo of a Mafia family. When the kingpin was taken out, all the other pins around him would be in jeopardy of falling too.
As the boss' sons, Mark and Andy's rise to the top was not unexpected but former employees say they proved their mettle to their father on the fast-paced trading floor on the nineteenth floor. "Here's a guy who pushed his kids to learn everything about the stock market that they could," said Little Rick. "He was very big on them succeeding."
Andrew and Mark did not work on the seventh floor where the criminal scheme was being run but Madoff apparently told one of his biggest investors that his sons gave him trading advice for that part of the business. In testimony before the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2007, Jeff Tucker, the co-founder of Fairfield Greenwich, was asked if he knew any of the people besides Madoff and Frank DiPascali who were involved in making investment decisions.