Madoff Secretary: Wife Involved in Day to Day Operation of Company

Madoff's longtime secretary paints candid picture of boss, wife.

May 6, 2009 — -- In the weeks before Bernard Madoff's arrest, Eleanor Squillari said she watched as her longtime boss changed.

Squillari, the disgraced financier's secretary for more than 20 years, she would often see Madoff staring off into space. He took his blood pressure frequently and stopped reading his mail, she said.

Then, on Dec. 10, 2008, Squillari knew something strange was going on. She watched as Madoff, his brother and his sons had what appeared to be a tense meeting in the office. Madoff appeared so shaken his sons had to help him put on his coat, she told "Good Morning America."

Earlier that morning, she said, Madoff's wife Ruth had tried to sneak past her desk. She had come into the office to withdraw $10 million from her personal account.

The next day, Madoff was arrested for perpetrating what is believed to be the largest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history.

According to Squillari, Madoff's wife was completely devoted to him and was involved in the day to day operations of the company. Madoff once told Squillari that he had his wife watching the company's books because "nothing gets by her," Squillari said.

As Madoff's secretary for more than 20 years, Squillari got to know the disgraced financier better than most people.

She says he was beloved by everyone who knew him, but could also be something of a rogue at the office. He once unzipped his pants in front of her; another time he tried to pat her on the behind. She says his appointment book was filled with massage parlors.

Madoff's carefully crafted financial façade unraveled in December and sent shockwaves down Wall Street when it was revealed. His $65 billion fraud swindled celebrities, politicians, employees and even friends.

In April the convicted con artist celebrated his 71st birthday at a federal prison in lower Manhattan where he is being held while he awaits his sentencing hearing June 16.

Squillari said a story Madoff told her years earlier about a friend whose secretary stole millions of dollars now sticks out in her mind.

"He said, 'You know what happens is, it starts out with you taking a little bit, maybe a few hundred, maybe a few thousand, you get comfortable with that, and before you know it, it snowballs into something big," Squillari claims Madoff told her.

Madoff's Wife Fights to Keep Property

Now known as #61727-054, Madoff may have the ire of thousands of victims, but he also has the love of his wife of more than 45 years, Ruth Madoff.

Ruth visited her husband in the Metropolitan Correctional Center where no conjugal visits are allowed.

Ruth has told members of her family that she still loves her husband, but that she feels shunned and lonely because of her husband's fraud that cheated thousands of people.

The government has seized the Madoffs' vacation home in Palm Beach, Fla., their 70-foot luxury yacht and a smaller boat.

Ruth is fighting to maintain their two-story penthouse apartment in Manhattan and more than $62 million she claims belongs to her, independent of her husband's criminal activities.

Madoff entered a guilty plea in March to 11 counts including fraud and perjury.

He told U.S. District court judge Denny Chin, "I cannot adequately express how sorry I am for what I have done."

Federal prosecutors are in plea negotiations with at least two of the people suspected by investigators of helping Madoff pull off his scheme, accountant David Friehling and long-time Madoff employee Frank DiPascali.

DiPascali told he could not comment "right now."

Investigators say DiPascali played a key role in "cooking the books" by recording bogus stock trades. His plea negotiations were first reported by Fortune Magazine. His lawyer did not return calls seeking comment.

Friehling also could not be reached for comment. In a court filing, prosecutors acknowledged ongoing negotiations with Madoff's accountant. Friehling signed off on yearly reports that federal prosecutors say covered up Madoff's Ponzi scheme.