Madoff’s Sons Cut Ties With Father, Mother

Jun 5 2009 | 1:15pm ET

It seems that even family ties can be frayed and torn by a $65 billion Ponzi scheme.

According to Vanity Fair magazine, Bernard Madoff’s sons have not spoken with their parents since their father confessed his scam to them almost six months ago. Andrew and Mark Madoff, who have not been accused of any wrongdoing, have not visited their father since he was carted off to prison in March, with Andrew telling friends that he can’t find it in his heart to pity his 71-year-old father, who will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars after pleading guilty to 11 counts of fraud, money laundering, false filings and perjury.

Andrew, who reportedly fell to the floor, sobbing, when his father broke the news in his kitchen on Dec. 10, has called the Ponzi scheme “a father-son betrayal of biblical proportions,” and claims that he and his brother were blindsided by the news. Not everyone, least of all some former employees of Madoff’s firm, where both sons worked, believes that, but at least one confidant says that father did not trust his sons with the scheme.

“He thought they’d somehow screw things up,” Vanity Fair’s David Margolick writes. One former employee told Margolick, “they just didn’t have the evilness in them.”

Mark Madoff apparently reacted to his father’s confession with anger. He has since become obsessed with the scandal, scrutinizing every story and blog posting he can find about it on the Web, according to Margolick. And while some of his closest friends lost millions with Madoff, not all have severed ties to Mark. New York developer Edward Blumenthal invited him to a Passover seder, and Jeff Wilpon, the son of Mets owner Fred Wilpon, remains friends with Mark, although Vanity Fair says he has tired of his self-pity.

After his father broke the news—and after he presumably got up off the kitchen floor—a near-catatonic Andrew went right to bed, without even taking off his coat or shoes, and stayed there for four hours, completely still. Since his father went to jail, his mood has brightened some, according to his friend Alexandra Lebenthal.

“After Bernie went to jail, that was meaningful for him in terms of getting to the next level,” she told Margolick. “He discusses him—‘casually is not the right word—unemotionally, devoid of feeling, which I take to be a way of protecting himself from this monster. I do think he’s still in some form of shock.”

Worst of all, perhaps, for the boys is the impact on their children. Andrew is focused on making sure his daughters understand that, “just because their grandfather turns out to be one of the worst criminals ever doesn’t mean they’re bad people.” It’s something that may need to be reinforced, as the Madoff grandchildren have had to deal with harassing phone calls and the reluctance of some of their friends’ parents to let them visit the Madoff house.

And even though neither son thinks their mother had anything to do with the scandal, they have also cut off contact with her since their father’s arrest. Their reluctance apparently stems from their belief that her tendency to take his side in all things enabled him to run the Ponzi scheme.

Indeed, the last contact Andrew or Mark had with either parent may have been a note included in a package sent to each of them a few days after his arrest, containing expensive watches and jewelry—in violation of the asset freeze slapped against him.

“Dear Mark + Andy,” Bernard Madoff wrote, “If you can bear to keep these watches, they are given with my love.”

“If not, give them to someone who might. Love, Dad.”

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