The elder son of the disgraced financier Bernie Madoff was found dead in his Manhattan apartment yesterday. Police indicated that Mark Madoff, who was 46, had taken his own life.
In what will look to some like a case of the son paying for the sins of the father, Mr Madoff's fully clothed body was discovered hanging shortly after daybreak in the living room of his apartment.
Sources said that his two-year-old son was found sleeping in a nearby bedroom.
The suicide came on the second anniversary of the arrest of his father. Bernie Madoff was convicted of running the biggest Ponzi scheme in history through his Manhattan investment firm, defrauding clients of $65bn and shattering the lives of individual investors and families in the US and around the globe. He is serving a 150-year prison term.
While there had been reports last winter of prosecutors preparing charges in a criminal tax-fraud case against Madoff's two sons, who worked at the firm, as well as his brother, it never materialised. But last week Mark and his younger brother, Andrew, were sued by the court-appointed trustee responsible for recouping as much of the lost money as possible for the former clients of Bernard L Madoff Securities. The suit argues that they and other relatives of the financier must have known about the scheme and should repay the missing funds.
Both sons have also been targeted by civil suits filed against them by individual victims of the Madoff scandal. Friends had described Mark as being irretrievably embittered by the discovery of the depths of his father's crimes and of his deception even to his own family.
New York police said they received a phone call from a relative of Mark Madoff just before 7.30am and that his body was found shortly afterwards in his fourth-floor apartment on Mercer Street in the fashionable SoHo neighbourhood. The building is a few doors from the Mercer Hotel, which over the years has served as the temporary and very luxurious home of people such as Rupert Murdoch and Calvin Klein.
While Madoff Snr has confessed to swindling his clients with the Ponzi scheme, he has always insisted he acted alone. However, since he was disgraced, seven other people have been arrested in relation to the case, including several former long-term employees and an outside accountant.
The death of Madoff's eldest son adds to the already wrenching human drama of the scandal. "Mark Madoff took his own life today. This is a terrible and unnecessary tragedy," Martin Flumenbaum, a lawyer for the Madoff sons said. "Mark was an innocent victim of his father's monstrous crime, who succumbed to two years of unrelenting pressure from false accusations and innuendo."
Before killing himself, Mr Madoff had exchanged emails with his wife, who was away in Florida. A suggestion in one email that someone should check on their toddler son spurred Mrs Madoff to ask her father to go to the apartment. He alerted police.
Mark Madoff had joined his father's brokerage business straight after university. The unravelling of the Ponzi scheme, which uses funds from new investors to keep up with payments to existing ones, began when both sons confronted their father about huge bonus payouts he was preparing to make weeks ahead of schedule.
The next day, on 10 December 2008, the father revealed to his sons that their careers and lives were spun out of an immense web of conspiracy and fraud. They reportedly never spoke again.