Wrestling With His Conscience, Madoff Took Antidepressants in Prison

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Photo: Peter Rad; Prop styling by Maeve Sheridan; Casting by Impossible NYC

Bernie Madoff has adjusted remarkably well to life in prison, but it turns out that the mastermind of history’s largest Ponzi scheme may have had some help. “Bernie was having trouble sleeping. He was depressed — there’s no question about it,” an inmate told me. And so, at least for a while, Bernie took Remeron, a tetracyclic antidepressant, and Sinequan, which treats anxiety as well as insomnia, according to this inmate.

For my story "Bernie Madoff, Free at Last," in the current issue of New York, I’d spoken in depth to more than half a dozen current and recent inmates and received a couple dozen letters from people who knew Madoff at the federal correctional institution in Butner, North Carolina, where he has 149 years left on his sentence. Then, last week, I was contacted by another inmate in Bernie’s prison circle. He didn’t want his name used since he’s still in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons; he was convicted of trafficking in narcotics. “Bernie would like to know what made him do it,” said the inmate who regularly walked the track with Bernie during rec time. “He was upset with himself.”

The inmate, who kept detailed diaries, one of which was shown to me, said that Madoff's prison jobs weren't always easy. He jumped eagerly into the prison work world, but his job filling orders at the commissary taxed the 72-year-old con man, and the diary records some of Bernie’s reactions, purportedly in his own words. The commissary job, for instance, was difficult for Bernie. In one diary entry, the diarist tells Bernie: “Bernie you look tired and you’ve only worked two goddamn days.”

“People order soda like it’s going out of style,” the diary records Bernie saying. “You cannot believe how heavy the baskets are.”

Madoff obsessed over his family. “He was worried about his brother being indicted," said this inmate. "He was worried about his wife. He was having problems coping with things.” Madoff's sons wouldn’t even talk to their mother, this inmate says. But by June, family relations seemed to be on the mend. According to the diary, Bernie said, “My children are now talking to my wife, so I believe it is starting to blow over. Thank God.” But Bernie was still gloomy about Ruth, his teenage sweetheart and wife of five decades. “He’s worried that she’s not going to be okay financially,” the inmate said. With her, he apparently tried to be upbeat about his new life, keeping details from her.

“What does your wife say?” Bernie was asked, according to the diary. “She really does not understand how [it] is,” Bernie replied.

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