Wife Called Police To Report Mark Madoff Missing Last Year

Former Madoff secretary Eleanor Squillari says Mark struggled with shame.

December 11, 2010, 9:56 AM

Dec. 14, 2010— -- Since his death friends and associates have come forward to say that Mark Madoff was a kind and sensitive man who doesn't deserve to have his reputation tarnished by his father's sins.

They also say he was feeling the strain of being Bernie Madoff's son. Last year, according to New York police, Mark was found in a New York hotel room registered under a different name after his wife Stephanie had called police to report him missing. Madoff told police he was under duress and was going to seek help for his mental issues.

Madoff, 46, killed himself Saturday on the two-year anniversary of his father Bernie's arrest, almost to the very hour. Police say Mark's father-in-law found the body hanging from a pipe, with Mark's two-year-old son Nick asleep in another room.

Friends posted remembrances on a Facebook memorial page Monday, and in an exclusive interview, Bernie Madoff's former secretary told ABC News said she was sad that Mark, who used to greet her with a smile every morning, had grown so depressed he thought there was "no light at the end of the tunnel."

"It hurts me because that's not who he was," said Eleanor Squillari. "He was in a very bad place."

As Bernie Madoff's secretary for 25 years, Squillari saw Mark and his brother Andy grow up and come to work in the family business.

Squillari said she knew Mark was having a hard time with the shame of being a Madoff.

"I always knew that Mark wore his heart on his sleeve, and he wanted to be liked," said Squillari. "I could see him thinking that his family would be better off without him, and it makes me so sad because that's not true. But when you're that depressed you don't see it."

Squillari said it "shook her to the core" to think that Madoff, who she described as "jubilant," sweet, and "supersensitive," decided to kill himself despite his four children. "He was an outstanding person . . . When I think about him, I think about his smile and that sparkle in his eyes."

"For somebody so wonderful and so kind to think he was worthless, it breaks my heart."

'No One Wants To Hear the Truth

Mark Madoff was more interested in fishing than Wall Street -- so much so that he invested in a company that makes fishing reels -- and even when he joined the family firm he was never part of what turned out to be the illegal side of the business.

After Bernie Madoff confessed his crimes to his sons on Dec. 10, 2008, it was Mark who turned his father into authorities, ignoring a request from the elder Madoff that he wait a week before calling the FBI.

Since that day two years ago Mark had not spoken to his father or to his mother Ruth, who he called an enabler of his father's crimes.

Hours before Mark died he sent an email to his lawyer that said, "No one wants to hear the truth."

"He had to live for the last two years under the scrutiny and the innuendoes and people alluding to the fact that he should've known or he had to have known," said Squillari. "Well, you know what, he didn't. And I would bet my life on it."

Said Squillari, "I was sitting there every day for 25 years and I know, I know [Mark and his brother Andrew], who grew up to be wonderful , outstanding people. I know they weren't involved."

Squillari said she empathized with Mark's sense of loss. Mark and Andrew both stopped speaking to their mother Ruth after their father's arrest. "It's just too much to have everything you know be gone overnight," said Squillari. "To have your parents gone and to find out your father wasn't who you thought he was."

"Mark and Andy are paying for the sins of their father, and it's so wrong."

The money stolen from investors, however, allowed all the Madoff family members, including Mark, to live lives of luxury.

Squillari said it wasn't strange that a man raised in wealthy surroundings would come to think of having lots of money as normal. "We all would be living that fabulous lifestyle if we had been born into it," said Squillari. "You wouldn't think twice about it."

But even in death, Mark Madoff will continue to be the target of efforts to recover that money. The bankruptcy trustee tasked with recovering funds for victims of Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme say Mark and his children received tens of millions of dollars stolen in the scam.

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A lawsuit filed last week alleged Mark and others in the family committed accounting fraud as company executives.

'Rest In Peace Mark Madoff'

The trustee has alleged in one of the lawsuits filed that "if the Family Members had been doing their jobs -- honestly and faithfully -- the Madoff Ponzi scheme night never have succeeded, or continued for so long."

"Some of these people were in control or were absolutely in a position to understand what was going on," said Stephen Harbeck, president of Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC), the federally mandated non-profit corporation that protects investors against fraud. SIPC pays the legal fees of the Madoff victims' court-appointed bankruptcy trustee.

Bernie Madoff, 72, is now serving a 150-year sentence in a North Carolina federal prison. It's not known how he got word of his son's death in prison, but he and Mark had not spoken in two years, and the suicide may have been a message.

"I'm thinking Bernie got the message," said Eleanor Squillari.

Asked if she thought the elder Madoff deserved to get that message, Squillari said, "Mark didn't deserve to die, but Bernie deserves to be where he is. I'm very angry at Bernie."

Bernie Madoff's lawyer Ira Sorkin told ABC News that Bernie would not be attending the funeral of his son out of consideration for his daughter-in-law and grandchildren. Sorkin said Bernie Madoff would conduct a private memorial in prison. He would not comment on whether Madoff had ever asked permission to leave prison to attend, or whether the family had extended an invitation.

Mark Madoff's body was claimed Tuesday by the funeral director of the Gramercy Park Memorial Chapel in Manhattan. No funeral date has been set.

Meanwhile, on the new "Rest in Peace Mark Madoff" Facebook page, high school friend David Nadler called Mark Madoff "one of the best people I ever knew."

In a separate post, Ed Langone wrote that the "very sad news" of Mark's death made him "think back to the days of the Heights School, East Hills, when everybody was just little kids, and the real world hadn't set in yet." Both are grade schools in Roslyn, New York, where Mark grew up. "A terrible tragedy all around, I feel sorry for his kids," wrote Langone.

Another poster, who identified herself as a former Madoff employee in London, wrote "SLEEP TIGHT MARK XXXXX."

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Madoff Hated 'Drumbeat of Litigation'

On Good Morning America Monday, financial journalist Diana Henriques of the New York Times said that as the second anniversary of Bernie Madoff's arrest drew near, Mark had become despondent about the renewed publicity and the lawsuits from the bankruptcy trustee.

"The drumbeat of litigation had become an enormous burden," said Henriques. "Things were building."

She said he was especially upset about his two young children being named in one of the lawsuits, though Henriques said it is quite common for children and their trust funds to be named in such suits.

Mark's wife Stephanie and Mark's two youngest children had legally changed their last name to avoid the Madoff stigma. Stephanie was at Disney World with Mark's daughter when Mark committed suicide.

Madoff has also begun to feel he would never find work, according to Henriques. "All he knew was Wall Street," said Henriques. "He began to feel he was completely unemployable."

"Certainly he began to feel he was never going to be able to fit back in," she said.

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