If you haven’t seen it, the Times yesterday tried to get at the character of Bernard Madoff by writing a lengthy profile on his wife Ruth.
One question everyone seems to ask is whether Madoff’s family — and in particular his wife and sons — knew what Madoff was up to, though she has not yet been charged with any crime.
Was Mrs. Madoff really blindsided? In the social circles where the couple once traveled, both possibilities are unnerving — that Ruth Madoff was in on this, or that she wasn’t. If she isn’t a confederate, after all, then she arguably should be counted among Bernard Madoff’s victims. Either way, wittingly or not, she was an essential asset to her husband, humanizing him and drawing people into his orbit.
“All I will say on the subject is that it’s hard to imagine that she could live with the guy for 50 years and have no inkling,” says Donald Rosenzweig, a childhood friend of Ruth’s and an investor in Madoff Investment Securities. “Could she attract people to him? Yes. Was she out there shilling for him? I doubt it. But maybe.”
What is clear is that Ruth was for many the gateway into the Madoff Ponzi scheme, wittingly or not. The story spoke with several of Ruth’s high school classmates about a class reunion a few years ago.
Mr. Rosenzweig, another classmate of Mrs. Madoff’s who attended the reunion, was feeling grateful at the time, too. In 2003, he had called Mr. Madoff for advice about whether to invest with a particular brokerage firm. The two men hadn’t spoken in decades, but Mr. Madoff couldn’t have been warmer or more gracious with his time.
“I played a little cute and I said, ‘What are you up to?’ And of course, I knew because when you’re from a small town and someone makes it that big, you know about their accomplishments and you’re very proud. And he told me. And I said, ‘Well, will you handle my money for me?’ He said: ‘I’m sorry, we’ve been closed for four or five years. By the way, Ruth is sitting right here, would you like to say hello to her?’ ”
Mr. Rosenzweig had actually taken Ruth out on a couple of dates, when they were 13 years old. (“A couple movies,” he recalls.) He and Mrs. Madoff reminisced on the phone for a bit and then she said that her husband wanted to say something.
“And he got back on the phone and said, ‘Look, Donny, we go back a long way, I’ll get you into the fund.’ ”