Wall Street financier Bernie Madoff’s $20 billion dollar Ponzi scheme was such a destructive crime, it affected thousands of victims. Investors lost their life savings, their homes, and in some cases their lives. Madoff’s own family was also instantly torn apart from the moment he revealed his crime.
His wife, Ruth, was left bewildered, supposedly unaware of what Bernie had been up to all those years. His sons, who turned him in to the FBI the same day he confessed to them, both died in their 40s — Mark, from suicide, and Andrew, from a rare form of blood cancer. Each son also left behind both an ex-wife, and a current partner. A few of them have spoken out since the revelation of Bernie’s crimes, but they’re all living a life of relative seclusion. This is where Bernie Madoff’s sons’ wives are today.
The ex-wives were all sued on behalf of Bernie’s victims
In 2012, the trustee tasked with recouping money for Bernie’s victims, Irving H. Picard, named all three of Madoff’s sons’ ex-wives, among others, in a $255.3 million dollar lawsuit that claimed “the women should have been aware of and reported Madoff’s fraud,” according to the LA Times. Mark’s ex-wife, Susan Elkin, was sued for $2.4 million, his widow, Stephanie Mack, for $27.5 million, and Andrew’s ex-wife, Deborah Madoff, for $27.7 million. “Simply put, if the Family Defendants had been doing their jobs — honestly and faithfully — the Madoff Ponzi scheme might never have succeeded, or continued for so long,” Picard’s suit stated.
According to The Philadelphia Inquirer, all three women had been “dropped from Picard’s suit under confidential terms” at some point. It is unclear what, if any, money they surrendered to the victims’ restitution fund, but a later settlement further stripped Mark’s and Andrew’s estates of “a combined $23 million” dollars, leaving them with $1.75 million and $2 million dollars respectively.
Andrew’s fiancée Catherine Hooper is not living the high life
Catherine Hooper met Andrew while he was still technically married to his estranged wife, Deborah Madoff, and, in fact, Andrew was still technically married to Deborah when he died.
In a 2017 interview with People, Hooper gave a glimpse into her life nearly three years after losing Andrew. The news of Andrew’s death made headlines, not only because died tragically young, but also because he was apparently still wealthy. The NY Daily News got their hands on Andrew’s will and reported that he left a $16 million dollar estate to be divided between his children, Hooper and his ex-wife. Hooper was also set to receive $50,000 per month from a trust set up by the former financier.
Except Hooper told People that she “has not yet received a penny and may never at all,” due to Andrew’s money being tied up in lawsuits connected to his father’s crimes. Hooper also tells the magazine that she and her daughter live in a 500 sq. ft. studio apartment in Manhattan — a significant downgrade from the luxury 5 bedroom, 5.5 bath, 3,215 sq. ft. Upper East Side apartment she and Andrew previously shared, and which sold for $5.4 million dollars in October of 2016. “I downsized my life completely, and sold nearly everything I own including the engagement ring that Andrew gave me,” Hooper also told People, additionally claiming that she and her 12-year-old daughter now sleep in bunk beds.
Andrew’s ex-wife, Deborah, has almost entirely avoided the spotlight
Though Andrew made an attempt to leave money to his ex-wife, Deborah, and their children, it is unclear whether they will ever see any of that money. And the revelation that he included her in his will at all surprised a lot of people, since the few publicly available tidbits about their split did not indicate a warm post-separation relationship.
For example, Deborah filed for divorce from Andrew the same day his father was arrested and taken into FBI custody in 2008, according to The New York Post. Ouch. Four years later, Deborah sought to change her name back to her maiden name, Deborah West, in an apparent attempt to distance herself from a family name that would forever be followed by a black cloud. Aside from those two facts, which are only available because they are public record, Deborah has not given interviews, she has not written any books, and appears to want nothing to do with the fame — or, rather, infamy — of the Madoff family.
Catherine Hooper didn’t watch Wizard of Lies
In May of 2017, HBO released Wizard of Lies, the dramatic depiction of the effect Bernie Madoff’s crimes had on his family. Some members of the Madoff family were minimally involved with the production, including Ruth, who met with Michelle Pfeiffer, who played her in the film. Hooper also met with some of the cast, like Robert De Niro (who played Bernie Madoff), and Lily Rabe (who played her), although she also claimed that she would wait a while to watch the film.
“With the story being back in the news, there’s a lot of family communication,” Hooper told People, adding, “Everyone just feels really sensitive right now and in a couple of months we’ll go back to nobody caring. I can watch it in privacy and not be thinking of what some reviewer said.”
Mark’s ex-wife, Susan Elkin, has also stayed out of the headlines
Unlike Deborah West, Susan Elkin’s marriage to Mark Madoff was over long before the family’s involvement with the finance scandal that rocked the world. According to People, Mark and Susan divorced in 2000, but The Daily Mail reported that Susan remained close with Mark’s mother, Ruth, detailing how Ruth had spent her 76th birthday in May of 2017 with Elkin and her new husband at their Connecticut home. Ruth actually owns a condominium just ten minutes away from her ex-daughter-in-law’s home, and she visits there frequently.
That’s about the extent of the public information available about Susan Elkin, except for the fact that Ruth’s closeness with her was a constant source of stress for Mark’s second wife, Stephanie Madoff Mack, but more on that in a minute. I should also mention here that the above photo is not actually Susan Elkin on some kind of wacky incognito shopping spree. It’s just that she’s been so effective at keeping private, I couldn’t find a single picture of her on the entire internet.
Catherine Hooper couldn’t get a job
As odd as this may sound, Catherine Hooper met Andrew Madoff because of a shared love of fly-fishing. According to an interview with Marie Claire, Hooper discovered her love of the sport as a young woman, and became part owner of a fly shop, which is where she met the younger Madoff son.
According to journalist Laurie Sandell’s book, Truth and Consequences: Life Inside the Madoff Family — which was written with the cooperation of almost everyone connected to the Madoffs except for Mark’s widow, Stephanie — Andrew quickly became a major investor in Hooper’s shop. Hooper somehow parlayed her fly-fishing store experience into becoming a brand ambassador for Dior, a job which had her rubbing elbows with the creme de la creme of the fashion world. But that all changed after the Ponzi scheme came to light.
Hooper struggled to find work in the aftermath of both the scandal and Andrew’s death. “Honestly, despite my qualifications, every company that interviewed me politely told me that they could never put me in front of clients with a background connected to him,” Hooper told People. As such, Hooper now lives off of the 20% stake she kept after selling Black Umbrella, the “disaster preparedness business” that she and Andrew also once operated. She also writes books under the pen name, Carolina Carter. As of this writing, she’s written three installments in her series of mystery thrillers titled, A Secret She Keeps.
Mark’s widow, Stephanie Mack, also wrote a book
Catherine Hooper isn’t the only author in the Madoff family. Mark’s widow, Stephanie Madoff Mack, also put pen to paper in 2011 with her memoir, The End of Normal: A Wife’s Anguish, A Widow’s New Life. In excerpts published by The Daily Beast, Mack’s book reveals the painful details of the fallout that the family experienced as a result of Bernie’s crimes, including Mark’s first suicide attempt, which happened approximately one year before he tragically succeeded in taking his own life.
Mack’s book also shed light on the strained relationship she had with Ruth Madoff, who Mack accused of making “constant little digs and comments used to feed my animosity toward Mark’s ex-wife, Susan,” according to excerpts published by Vanity Fair. “Ruth loved to build you up, and then not so much knock you down as flick you aside,” Mack writes. She also vehemently defends Mark’s innocence throughout the book, even calling him a “hero” for intervening in time to stop the alleged $140 million dollars in bonus checks Bernie intended to distribute to employees just before his arrest. “That was a $140 million holdup-in-progress that my husband and his brother stopped,” she writes.
Stephanie Mack changed her name in 2010
According to a 2012 interview with Harper’s Bazaar, Stephanie and Mark decided together that she should change her last name in order to escape the scrutiny that the Madoff moniker would forever carry. They chose Mack by “combining M from Madoff with ACK, the airport code for their beloved Nantucket.”
The subject of the name change is something of a sticking point for the family, particularly between Stephanie and Andrew, who suggested to author Laurie Sandell (via The Daily Mail) that the name change was an indicator of bigger problems in their relationship, and that Mark even feared that Stephanie was about to leave him during this time. Stephanie has denied this claim multiple times, but the rift between Stephanie and the Madoffs has remained.
The Harper’s Bazaar interview is the most recent public life update that Stephanie has given. At the time of that interview, she said that her relationship with Bernie was non-existent, and that a continuing relationship with Ruth is based entirely on whether her children “show interest in wanting to know who their grandmother is.”
Catherine Hooper still maintains Andrew knew nothing about the Ponzi scheme
Though the sisters-in-law painted differing accounts of the family dynamic in their respective memoirs (Hooper heavily contributed to Laurie Sandell’s Truth and Consequences: Life Inside the Madoff Family), they both agree on one thing: Their husbands were innocent. As I previously mentioned, Mack went so far as to refer to Mark as a “hero.” Hooper actually echoes this exact sentiment.
Speaking to People, she said, “They were after him relentlessly and they never came up with anything. So yeah, I would love it if he had been recognized in his lifetime for the whistleblower he was and the enormous amount of personal strength it took him to turn in his father to the FBI, and at the most emotional moment of this life,” adding, “Andrew was absolutely a hero for what he did. So yeah, of course I wish he’d been recognized for what he did… but he wasn’t and you just can’t dwell on that.”
What’s next for the former Madoff sons’ wives?
Aside from Catherine Hooper’s 2017 People interview, the former Madoff wives have effectively maintained years of media silence. As I mentioned, Susan Elkin and Deborah West barely made a blip in the media frenzy surrounding the scandal, outside of the dubious information provided by “sources” and “insiders.”
Hooper and Mack, while decidedly more media-friendly, have also reigned in their public lives. Hooper has yet to move on romantically, instead telling People that she still “needs a little more time.” Mack hasn’t done any recent interviews, and her personal instagram is private, but it links to a professional account, where she identifies herself as a stylist, and links to a professional website that offers a link to book appointments. The professional Instagram account has only been up since December of 2016, and there’s not much public info available on the business.
Though their lives were all undoubtedly ripped apart and marred by unthinkable tragedy, it seems like each woman linked to the infamous Madoff family has been able to move on in their own way.