The eldest son of disgraced financier Bernard Madoff hanged himself by a dog leash in his apartment Saturday after two years of "unrelenting pressure" following his father's arrest in a multibillion-dollar fraud that enveloped the entire family, law enforcement officials and a family attorney said.
Mark Madoff was found hanging from a ceiling pipe in the living room of his SoHo loft apartment on Saturday, the second anniversary of Madoff's arrest in a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme that swindled thousands of investors of their life savings, two law enforcement officials told The Associated Press. His 2-year-old son was sleeping in the next bedroom, the officials said.
Mark Madoff, who reported his father to authorities the day after he confessed his fraud to them, has never been criminally charged in the investigation that has snared a half-dozen Madoff employees. He and his brother Andrew have said they were unaware of their father's crimes. But they have been remained under investigation and been named in multiple investor lawsuits.
Mark Madoff's lawyer, Martin Flumenbaum, said the 46-year-old had taken his own life Saturday.
"This is a terrible and unnecessary tragedy," Flumenbaum said in a written statement. "Mark was an innocent victim of his father's monstrous crime who succumbed to two years of unrelenting pressure from false accusations and innuendo."
The law enforcement officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly about the death, said that Mark Madoff's wife Stephanie, who is in Florida with another son, became concerned about her husband after he sent an e-mail to her Friday night or early Saturday morning that someone should check on the 2-year-old child with him.
She asked her father to check on the home, where he found Madoff's body; the child was sleeping in a bedroom unharmed. A dog was also found in the apartment, the officials said.
Bernard Madoff, 72, swindled a long list of investors out of billions of dollars. He admitted that he ran his scheme for at least two decades, cheating thousands of individuals, charities, celebrities and institutional investors. Losses are estimated at around $20 billion, making it the biggest investment fraud in U.S. history.
He was arrested on Dec. 11, 2008, after confessing his crimes to his family.
The scandal put a harsh light on members of the family. The financier's brother, Peter, played a prominent role in the family's company. Mark and Andrew Madoff both worked on a trading desk at the firm, on a side of the business that wasn't directly involved in the Ponzi scheme.
In February, Mark Madoff's wife petitioned a court to change her last name and the last names of their two children, saying her family had gotten threats and was humiliated by the scandal.
A year ago, the court-appointed trustee trying to unravel Madoff's financial affairs sued several relatives, including Peter, Mark and Andrew, accusing them of failing to detect the fraud while living lavish lifestyles financed with the family's ill-gotten fortune.
The lawsuit accused Mark Madoff of using $66 million he received improperly to buy luxury homes in New York City, Nantucket and Connecticut.
A call to Bernard Madoff's attorney was not immediately returned Saturday. Calls to the FBI and U.S. Attorney's office were also not immediately returned. Previously, spokespeople for the brothers had repeatedly denied that they had any knowledge of their father's crimes.
Bernard Madoff is serving a 150-year prison sentence in North Carolina after admitting the fraud in late 2008 to his family and later the FBI. Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Traci Billingsley said Saturday she didn't have specific information on whether Bernie Madoff had been informed of his son's death or would be allowed to attend a service. In general, she said, inmates are informed of a relative's death as soon as the institution is made aware of it and the bureau does allow furloughs for prisoners to attend memorial services.
A police officer stood guard in the lobby of Madoff's 12-story luxury loft apartment in SoHo Saturday morning. An official from the medical examiner's office arrived in a van Saturday morning. The medical examiner will determine the cause of death.
Associated Press writers Tom Hays and Verena Dobnik in New York and Page Ivey in Columbia, S.C. contributed to this report.