Aug. 25, 2009 -- While Bernard Madoff was cheating thousands of investors out of millions, he was also allegedly cheating on his wife, according to Sheryl Weinstein, who claims to have been Madoff's mistress.
Weinstein is speaking to "Good Morning America" for the first time about her romantic relationship with the disgraced and now jailed financier and the book she wrote on the affair, "Madoff's Other Secret: Love, Money, Bernie and Me."
Read an excerpt of the book below, and head to the "GMA" Library for more good reads.
It was nine a.m. on February 25, 1988, when I stepped out of the cab in front of the red-enameled granite and steel building at 885 Third Avenue and pushed my way into the glistening, glass-enclosed lobby. It was New York's famed Lipstick Building, the name given to the thirty-four-story East Side skyscraper that stretches between Fifty-third and Fifty-fourth Streets.
Since its completion two years earlier, the three-tiered, ultra-modern structure had drawn many admirers. They viewed its curves and jazzy red hue as a welcome contrast to the black and white, sharp-edged design of its neighbor, the Citicorp Center. Lipstick Building designers John Burgee and Philip Johnson were being hailed for the building's sleek, elliptical lines and its unusual egg-shaped lobby. The lobby soared two stories high and incorporated a pedestrian walkway. The structure was so fanciful and pleasing, it would have been hard to imagine that anything so apocalyptic could be percolating within its walls.
I was curious to check it out for myself and set off toward the bank of elevators in the lobby. The much-touted Toscana Restaurant occupied a large chunk on the Fifty-fourth Street side. I would just take a quick peek inside, not wanting to be late for my 9:15 meeting with the principal of the brokerage house that bore his name.
As chief financial officer of Hadassah, the Jewish charitable organization of 350,000-plus women, I'd been asked to accompany three of our executive volunteers to a meeting to discuss the logistics of a donation. It wasn't part of my typical agenda, but this was no ordinary transaction.
The donor, an elderly man named Albert I., lived in France, and wanted to remain anonymous. He'd earmarked $7 million to fund a specialized medical facility to be founded by one of our doctors. The only caveats to the donation, at the time the largest Hadassah had received from a single benefactor, were that the money be used to support the facilty and that a New York broker named Bernard Madoff manage the funds.
This was the first time we had a donor stipulate how the monies were to be held and invested. Normally, they would just be given directly to Hadassah. The request was a bit unusual, but it made sense. It was a large sum, and if managed properly it could grow even as it funded Hadassah's work. Mr. Madoff was to disperse the funds as they were needed. In the office, we referred to Albert I. as our "French connection."
I was already on my third piece of Nicorette when I heard our president, Ruth P., calling to me from across the lobby. I had stopped smoking more than a year ago and was still using the gum to pacify my urge to light up. I wasn't sure if I'd be successful at quitting smoking since I'd already failed twice before. I'd promised my son I'd give it another try after he came home from school in tears. His teacher had given a presentation about the dangers of smoking, and he was convinced I was going to die. I made a personal "reverse psychological" pact with myself that if I failed this time, I would never try to quit again. To this day, twenty-three years later I have never smoked another cigarette.
Hastening past a colonnade of granite pillars, my heels clicking on the polished granite floors, I arrived at the bank of elevators, where Ruth and the others were waiting. Our treasurer, Debbie K., and Bernice T., chairwoman of Hadassah International, greeted me as I fought to catch my breath. Bernice was the one who'd made the initial contact with our donor during a trip to Paris. She wanted to be at the meeting to finalize the transaction and meet the man who would be managing the funds.
None of us at Hadassah had ever heard of Bernard Madoff or his firm, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities. Apparently, our donor had met him through a personal introduction some years back. We were all a bit surprised that the donor was declining even the smallest recognition: no honorary plaque, no commemorative inscription, not even a framed certificate of thanks. While it struck me as odd, it didn't raise any red flags, although now in retrospect, I wish I had asked more questions about his desire for anonymity.
I was already rummaging around in my purse for another piece of Nicorette when the elevator doors opened onto the eighteenth floor. The offices were contemporary and stark with glass walls that served as partitions dividing the space. The color scheme was masculine, black and silver right down to the financial prospectus and other printed materials in the reception area. We were led to a windowed conference room with a fabulous city panorama.
"Please wait here, Mr. Madoff will be right with you," the receptionist instructed.
I knew from past meetings that Ruth didn't like to sit with her back to a door, so I waited for her to get situated at the conference table, then I sat down directly across from her. This way, I could pick up any non-verbal cues she might telegraph during our meeting and still enjoy the Manhattan skyline beyond the sparkling double-paned windows.
We had been in the conference room about five minutes when I sensed footsteps in the hallway behind me. I didn't see Mr. Madoff when he first entered the room, but I watched as Ruth's eyes widened, her thin lips parting in a contented grin. Turning to look, I observed that he was wearing a cardigan. His casual attire seemed contrived in its subtlety, as if to say, I'm relaxed and in control, trust me! It was one of the only times I would ever see him so casually dressed.
"Hello, ladies. I'm Bernie Madoff," he said, striding to the head of the conference table, where he stopped, placed his hands on the table, leaned forward slightly and nodded his head in greeting.
When his gaze fell on me, he blinked and looked a bit surprised. I'm sure he was expecting a group of elderly Jewish women, and I was certainly an exception to the case. At thirty-nine, I was younger than my colleagues by more than two decades. He gave me a welcoming smile, a smile I'll never forget. It wasn't lewd and lascivious, but slightly seductive and almost happy. I knew instantly that he was attracted to me.
Though I'd felt an instant surge of connection, I wasn't particularly attracted to him—he didn't have the pretty boy features I preferred. Still, there was something in him that piqued my interest.
A few minutes into the meeting Bernie had to step out to take a call. As soon as the door closed behind him, the women at the table began making comments. "I had no idea he would be so good looking," one said.
I was a little surprised to hear their remarks. I didn't find him particularly handsome. What I was reacting to went much deeper. My female intuition was telling me there was something else going on with this man; there was an intrinsic sensuality about him that was both attractive and alluring. Yet there was also an oily slickness that I found disconcerting. When the meeting continued, Bernie kept catching my eye in a way that was different from how he looked at the other women in the room. And when he wasn't looking at me, I surprised myself by admiring his distinctive profile.
Before the end of our first meeting, Bernie and I had exchanged business cards. As the caretaker of Hadassah's finances, I would have to speak with him occasionally to discuss how the funds were being invested. But I also knew Bernie would be calling me regardless. Women have a way of sensing these things, so I wasn't surprised when a few days later he phoned my office to let me know that the donation had been transferred.
"Albert has deposited the money," he said. "Would you like to get together and discuss investment strategies?"
"Of course," I replied.
"Why don't you come over and have lunch at my office? We'll talk about it then."