When Judge Denny Chin sentenced Bernard Madoff to 150 years earlier this week, he condemned his crimes as "extraordinarily evil." "You deceived your own wife," he added, cutting Ruth Madoff, who had long been suspected of aiding her husband's crimes, her first real break. Today she got another one: The Post, citing an anonymous source, says that after a six-month probe, federal authorities have found no evidence that Ruth had anything to do with her husband's fraud. But the world, it seems, is not quite ready to give up the idea of Ruth as a villain. The tabloids are still dogging her. The fact that the government allowed her to keep $2.5 million cash was met with disbelief; her statement, in which she described herself as a victim, dismissed ("I guess it's somewhat better than rolling around naked in hundred dollar bills and shrieking 'too bad for you' to the others — but only just," one Forbes columnist wrote). And the victims are still convinced she was in on it.
Lori Sirotkin, a Boca Raton, Fla., resident who lost her life savings to Madoff's scam, said she was "very disappointed" to hear that Ruth would not be prosecuted.
"My gut feeling is she is not innocent," said Sirotkin, 52. "After being married to him for so many years, and working in the company, I can't believe that she was not involved or at least didn't know."
Another victim, Gregg Felsen of Minneapolis, said "I think she should be charged, and the [Madoff] sons, too."
"I think it was a family affair," said Felsen, a 62-year-old photographer who considered suicide and underwent therapy after losing his life savings in the scheme. "How could you perpetrate a scam like that for 30 or 25 years without your family knowing about it? It's kind of hard to believe."
Personally, we'd be relieved for Ruth to be innocent. The idea of two people together systematically conducting a twenty-year crime uninterrupted by conscience is pretty horrible to contemplate. But it's understandable that, especially now that he's in prison, Bernie's clients would want another figure on which to lay blame. In a way, they're right: It truly is "unbelievable" that no one close to Bernie noticed his impossibly high returns, that no one questioned the secrecy of his trading methods, or wondered why his statements were printed on a dot-matrix printer. But who should have noticed? Who should have been paying attention? The person with whom he shared a casual chicken Parmesan every night, or the people who received his statements? Of course they can't believe that Ruth is innocent of aiding and abetting a fraud. Because in a way, it would mean that they are the ones who are guilty.