Exclusive: Bernie Madoff Says He Was a 'Basket Case' After Son's Suicide

Madoff tells New York Magazine reporter, "Trust me, I'm not OK."

February 16, 2011, 7:21 AM

Feb. 28, 2011 — -- Bernie Madoff, the Wall Street trader convicted of scamming thousands of investors out of billions, said he was a "basket case" in prison after he learned of his son's suicide.

"I cried for well over two weeks after he died," Madoff told New York Magazine in a taped conversation that aired exclusively on ABC News' "World News With Diane Sawyer." "They worried about me. They woke me up every hour on the hour to make sure that I was OK, the guards here. They instruct your roommate, 'be careful' and watch you. I was a basket case for weeks.

"Not a day goes by that I don't suffer. I may sound OK on the phone – Trust me, I'm not OK. And never will be," he said.

CLICK HERE to listen to the tape.

Madoff said that when he finally told his sons, Mark and Andrew, about his massive fraud scheme before he was arrested, Mark just stood motionless.

"That's when I broke down and told them. I started crying and I said, you know, explained to them what the deal was -- that I owe all of this money out and I'm not going to be able to cover it and so on and so forth. They were like stunned. I was crying. Andy, I remember, took me in his arms. He felt sorry for me at that stage," Madoff said. "Mark was standing there in shock."

Madoff said after that his two sons spoke to their lawyers, turned their father in to the authorities and never spoke to him again. After his father was convicted and sentenced to 150 years in prison, Mark, 46, committed suicide in December 2010 by hanging himself with a dog leash in his Manhattan apartment.

CLICK HERE to read the full story in New York Magazine.

But even before his son's suicide, Madoff told New York Magazine the collapse of his financial house of cards was a "nightmare" for him.

"I mean, you know, I destroyed our family... It was a nightmare for me. It was only a nightmare for me. It's horrible," Madoff said. "I had more than enough money to support any of my lifestyle and my family's lifestyle. I didn't need to do this for that. I allowed [myself] to be talked into something, and that's my fault."

In the interview, that spanned more than a dozen phone calls with New York Magazine reporter Steve Fishman, Madoff never said who talked him into starting his scheme, but said that though his scam cost many their life savings, he was the long-suffering victim.

"Look, imagine going home every night, not being able to tell your wife, living with this ax over your head, not telling your sons, my brother, seeing them every day in the business and not being able to confide in them," he said.

Fishman told ABC News it was that self-pity that made it seem as if Madoff "was in denial at some level."

"Bernie doesn't understand that he's ruined people's lives," he said.

As his scheme kept growing and Madoff got more and more deeply involved in the fraud, Madoff said he always believed he would find a way out.

"I kept on sort of telling myself that some miracle was going to happen or that I was going to be able to work my way out of it. Ok? I just didn't know what that was," he said. "As far as the timing was concerned, I would say probably it became clear to me in the, I would say early 2000s... Because by then the number was so astronomical. You know, I didn't know what I was hoping for quite frankly."

Madoff: 'Very Few People' Will Lose Their Principal Investment

In the interview, Madoff once again repeated claims that the banks and funds "had to know" something was wrong with his investments.

"I wouldn't give them any facts, like how much volume I was doing. I was not willing to have them come up and do the due diligence that they wanted," Madoff told New York Magazine. "I absolutely refused to do it. I said, 'You don't like it, take your money out,' Which of course they never did."

Though a trustee representing the victims of Madoff's Ponzi scheme is in the midst of several lawsuits with major investors over ill-gotten profits, Madoff told New York Magazine "most" of his individual clients were not net losers in the fraud.

"I made a lot of money for them," he said. "I was making 20 percent returns for them for years -- all the A and B clients, all my friends, everybody else. It was the people that came in very late in the game that got hurt.

"I'm confident that when this thing is all finished, [that] very few people, if any, will lose their principal," he said.

One group of "friends" that does stand to lose their principal, along with billions in profits, is the Wilpon family, who own the Mets and who were long-time investors with Madoff.

Fred Wilpon said earlier this month he knew "not one iota" about Madoff's multi-billion-dollar investment fraud, and that his family would be vindicated of any complicity in the multi-billion-dollar Ponzi scheme, despite a lawsuit claiming otherwise.

"We didn't do anything wrong," Wilpon said at the baseball team's Port Lucie, Florida spring training camp. "If anything we trusted a friend for a very long time, and as I told you a few months ago, that betrayal was very difficult for me."

"This was a man who we were friends with for 35 years and investors for 25 years."

A recent court filing by the trustee representing Bernie Madoff's victims, and a previous interview with the Ponzi schemer himself, have renewed public scrutiny of the long business and personal relationship between the Madoff and Wilpon families, and raised questions about the fiscal health of the National League franchise.

While Madoff assured a New York Times reporter that the Wilpons were blameless, bankruptcy trustee Irving Picard has asked the Mets owners for $300 million and released emails showing that there were doubts about Madoff's profits within the Wilpons investment firm.

ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross told "The Charlie Rose Show" on Feb. 16 that representatives of Picard's firm say Madoff seems to be protecting "certain people," including "close friends who were mostly winners in this scheme," and that "Picard is going after [the Wilpons] in a very aggressive way."

"Between $300 [million] and $1 billion is the number that they think they'll get out of him," said Ross on "The Charlie Rose Show." "Three-hundred-million would be the fictitious profits they took out and then under the law if they can show that the Wilpons knew it was a fraud they're not supposed to get back the capital they put in initially."

CLICK HERE to watch Rose's interview with Ross.

New York Magazine will publish additional Madoff tapes throughout the week.

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