The book, the thief, his wife and his lover

Fraudster Bernie Madoff's mistress's memoir races up the bestseller list
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The Independent Culture

The multibillion investment fraudster Bernard Madoff did not stop at financial shenanigans, it seems. This weekend, to the list of those he cheated for decades can be added the name of his wife, Ruth.

For 20 years, Madoff had an affair with one of his investors, and the lady in question is about to tell her story. She is Sheryl Weinstein, a mother married for 37 years, whose book, Madoff's Other Secret: Love, Money, Bernie, and Me, will be published by St Martin's Press on 25 August. A promotional blurb on the Barnes & Noble website says: "After a 20-year intimate relationship with Madoff – she lost it all. In Madoff's Other Secret, she tells her story. Filled with personal details, exclusive documents, and photographs, her account will reveal a Madoff nobody knew, and it will shock and surprise readers."

An attorney for Madoff's wife, Ruth, said his client did not know about the "alleged affair". The lawyer, Peter Chavkin, said that the allegations were a powerful reminder to those who claim Mrs Madoff knew about her husband's $65bn (£39bn) fraud "that there are some things that some spouses, however close they are, do not share with each other".

In the book, Mrs Weinstein says she met Madoff, now serving 150 years in prison for defrauding investors, at a business meeting when she was chief financial officer for the charitable women's organisation Hadassah, where she had a role in investment decisions. The charity was not one of the losers from Madoff's Ponzi scheme, withdrawing far more money than it put in. But suggestions that Mrs Weinstein was tipped off by Bernie's pillow-talk would be wrong. She herself was a heavy personal loser in the fraud.

At Madoff's June sentencing, Mrs Weinstein was among investors urging a long prison sentence for the financier, who admitted ripping off investors over at least two decades. She said she viewed meeting him 21 years ago "as perhaps the unluckiest day of my life". Mrs Weinstein said that her investment losses had forced her to sell her Manhattan home, had devastated her, her husband of 37 years, her son, her parents, her in-laws and everyone who depended on them. She called Madoff "that terror, that monster, that horror, that beast".

In her correspondence with the court, Mrs Weinstein made no mention of the affair, though she did write, in a request to speak at sentencing, that she wanted to address Madoff and the court because she thought "the personal connection may be more difficult for him to ignore".

Her husband, Ron Weinstein, said in a June letter to the court that all the money the couple had saved was lost and their marriage was strained: "My wife has been a basket case, and we are both very depressed." During the late June sentencing hearing, Mrs Weinstein was among those urging that the fraudster be sent down for a long stretch.

Madoff's lawyer Ira Sorkin's only remark on the book was that he hoped the author "was more discreet with her investment obligations than she has allegedly been with her sex life".

By Friday evening, the publicity about Mrs Weinstein's book had pushed its pre-sale ranking on Amazon from No 4,408 eight hours earlier to No 1,415. By Saturday evening, it was heading for the top 500.

The book has drawn fresh attention to Hadassah, the Women's Zionist Organisation of America, which has said its principal investment with Madoff totalled about $33m, while another $7m had been entrusted to him after it was donated by a French backer in 1988. Hadassah did not return a telephone call for comment.

Stanley Epstein, a California lawyer married to a Hadassah member, said Hadassah's treasurer told him after Madoff's arrest in December that the organisation had cashed in between $120m and $130m from its Madoff accounts over the years. The profits could make the organisation a target for those seeking to recover money to be distributed to defrauded investors. Mr Epstein's wife, Harriet, said. "The fact that this woman had an affair and was on the committee that made decisions about investments makes no sense. She obviously had a conflict of interest."

Additional reporting by Jessica Picken