Ruth Madoff's 'Plea' for Help: An E-mail Scam on Top of a Scam

Bernard Madoff's wife being used in classic 'Nigerian' scheme.

ByABC News
May 14, 2009, 4:09 PM

May 15, 2009— -- In an ironic twist, e-mail scammers are using the name of Ruth Madoff, the wife of convicted master con man Bernard Madoff, in a classic scam supposedly seeking help in hiding her secret cash.

Readers of's The Blotter alerted us to a series of e-mails that purport to be letters from Ruth Madoff seeking held "in acquiring some properties and keeping some large cash amount for me."

Click here to send your own tip to the investigative team.

Mrs. Madoff's lawyer, Peter Chavkin, said the e-mail messages are absolutely bogus. "She, of course, has nothing to do with them," said Chavkin.

Federal prosecutors have frozen all of the Madoff bank accounts and properties as they investigate whether profits from her husband's $65 billion scheme paid for them.

The e-mail messages suggest she is looking for help in secretly moving her assets to a safe location.

"There is a need for me to move out a lot of my personal funds and personal belongings around the world, particularly from outside America, but I need somebody to trust now, because I cannot received funds here in america right now," says the message.

Like her husband's stock fraud scam, the e-mail scheme promises the victim something that would appear to be too good to be true and requires a certain level of secrecy.

Click here to see one e-mail message sent to a reader of The Blotter.

"This would have to be very confidential, just between me and you, because the press are after me," the letter says. "Anyway! don't be scared about the risk, it is a very safe deal."

It is signed using Ruth Madoff's correct maiden name, 'Alpern'.

U.S. Postal authorities say the scammers, often located in Nigeria, pose as the wives of prominent people who need help to hide cash. Inevitably, the scam involves the recipient posting a small amount of cash, in order to ultimately make millions illegally.

Previous letters have used the names of deposed African dictators or other renown men suspected to have large amounts of criminal wealth.

Mrs. Madoff, who will celebrate her 68th birthday Monday, has not been charged with any crimes in the case involving her husband.

She is a regular visitor to her husband, who is being held in a federal facility in Manhattan while he awaits sentencing on June 29. She has told family members she feels shunned and lonely because of her husband's crimes, whose victims include her own family and once close friends.

Chavkin, her lawyer, said other e-mail scams invoking Ruth Madoff's name have struck a note of sympathy, trying to raise money to help her get through her ordeal.

"Also, not true," said Chavkin.

Click Here for the Blotter Homepage.