Ruth Madoff's Life Today Is Pretty Sad

In the late 2000s, Ruth Madoff saw her husband, Bernie Madoff, accused of running one giant Ponzi scheme. He'd reportedly managed to convince thousands of people to hand over their hard-earned money, promising them that he'd make profitable investments and that they'd soon see enormous payoff (via Business Insider). But that's just not what happened. Instead, Bernie, who'd been a respected financier, simply ripped off his clients, stealing billions of their dollars — but it all eventually caught up with him.

At the center of the scandal were Bernie's sons, who turned their father over to law enforcement in 2008, and his wife, who maintained that she didn't know that there was anything illegal going on. Bernie's supersized swindling made headlines, garnering the world's attention. Soon enough, the Madoffs' lavish lifestyle came crumbling down, as clients everywhere realized that their money was gone.

Since then, Ruth has largely managed to stay out of the spotlight, but that hasn't stopped misfortune from finding her.

Living off the deal she made

In June 2009, just days before Bernie Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison, Ruth struck a deal with U.S. prosecutors, forfeiting her right to $80 million in various assets in return for $2.5 million.

A few months later, Ruth's assets were frozen after trustee Irving Picard sued her for $44.8 million in attempt to obtain "the return of $44.8 million that he said was transferred to her from Bernard Madoff's firm over a six-year period," according to the New York Times. As part of a court order, Ruth was ordered to report her monthly expenses, as well as anytime she spent over $100 on herself.

In 2016, ABC News reported on various ongoing investigations into money that the Madoffs had sent to Israel. At the time, they noted that Ruth was still bound by legal requirements to divulge spending over $100.

Fleeing to Florida

In 2011, People magazine (via CBS New York) reported that friends of Ruth had been lending her a home to stay in Boca Raton, Florida, where she had been living a much different life than her time in New York. "She lives very frugally. She spends virtually nothing," a source told the magazine. People also reported that Ruth was now going by her maiden name, Alpern, driving a 14-year-old car and had dyed her hair red.

A year prior, the New York Post reported on similar lifestyle changes, including that Ruth had been delivering meals to homebound people. And yet, not everything had allegedly changed; the Post also claimed she had been spending time with her sister and at her brother-in-law's $4.5 million mansion. At the time, she allegedly still traveled frequently between New York and Florida while also visiting Bernie in jail in North Carolina.

Her son committed suicide

Ruth and Bernie's son, Mark, committed suicide on December 11, 2010, exactly two years after his father's arrest. At the time, a person close to the family told the New York Times that in the weeks before his suicide, Mark had "expressed both continuing bitterness toward his father and anxiety about a series of lawsuits that were filed against him, his brother Andrew and other family members." He had also become anxious over "news coverage speculating that criminal charges against him and his brother were still likely." (Neither Mark nor Andrew were ever charged.)

Mark's suicide left Ruth devastated and filled with regret, as she had refused to listen to Mark's pleas to cut off contact with Bernie. "I just wish, until my dying day, that I had done what he wanted," Ruth, who was allegedly not allowed to attend Mark's funeral, told 60 Minutes, during her first interview on the scandal. "I don't know if it would have made a difference or not, but if I could change things, at least if I had tried, I would have felt a little better. I don't know if it would have mattered. It's the most awful thing that could have happened to anybody."

Ruth also lost her son Andrew (above), to mantle-cell lymphoma, in 2014.

She tried to kill herself

Also during her interview with 60 Minutes, Ruth dropped the bombshell that she and Bernie had tried to kill themselves on Christmas Eve 2008, just two weeks after Bernie came clean about his Ponzi scheme. "I don't know ... whose idea it was," she said. "But we decided to kill ourselves because it was — it was so horrendous what was happening. We had terrible phone calls, hate mail—just beyond anything. And I just said, 'I can't go on anymore.'"

Ruth said she and Bernie took Ambien and other pills but woke up the next morning. "It was very impulsive and I'm glad we woke up," she said.

Heading to Connecticut

Ruth made another move in 2012, this time heading back north to Old Greenwich, Connecticut. The town, the New York Post said, is about an hour away from Manhattan by train, but she's not there to be close to their old stomping grounds; rather, she moved there to be closer to her three grandchildren, and settled into a gated community called The Gables. It's definitely not cheap, either, with one-bedroom condos listed for $3,100 a month.

While the Post struck out on getting further details about what her new everyday life was like — she refused to talk to them — ABC News got some more information about her post-scandal lifestyle. Friends and acquaintances say that she keeps to herself, and that she still keeps in contact with her husband even though her visits to him stopped. "She was caught between her grandchildren and him," they quoted Madoff lawyer Ira Sorkin as saying. They also revealed that anyone who wants to contact him still needs to go through her to get in touch with him, but what that relationship is truly like remains under wraps.

Consulting on 2017's HBO project

In 2017, the HBO movie The Wizard Of Lies tried to answer some questions regarding the family's knowledge of the infamous Ponzi scheme. Michelle Pfeiffer plays Ruth in the film, which attempts to explain just how his family might not have known what was going on. For Pfeiffer's part, she says that she believes Ruth and their sons truly didn't know until Bernie confessed. "In all the research I did, there wasn't one person who knew the facts who thought Ruth was aware of anything," she told Town and Country.

Before filming started, Pfeiffer met with Ruth at her Old Greenwich home. According to what the film's director, Barry Levinson, told Page Six (via New York Post), it wasn't precisely a spirit of cooperation that saw her meeting with the actress who was going to be portraying her. "I don't think it would be appropriate to say she 'cooperated' with the film. Michelle simply spent a little time talking to Ruth. I don't think Michelle talked much about the script. It was simply to get to know her." 

"I knew Ruth wasn't happy about this film being made," Pfeiffer told Town and Country. "Why would she be? But the best I could do is represent her in an honest way. My hope is that people will come away from this film thinking of her as a human being."

She's still being harassed by the public

In 2015, The Daily News reported on an incident that saw Ruth Madoff confronted by a Crime Watch Daily reporter on the front steps of her home. Another round of money stolen by her husband was going to be repaid to victims, and they were trying to get a statement from her. Her only response: "Get away from me!" 

Even though she was reportedly being kept to an extremely strict budget, the Daily Mail got some pictures that same year that showed her not only shopping at IKEA, but still carrying an expensive handbag worth around $1,350. (For what it's worth: she also drove a Prius.)

The New York Post knocked on her door in 2017, hoping to get a comment from her on the new HBO movie. Again, her response was brief: "I have nothing to say." According to the Post, these days, she mostly keeps to herself, and neighbors have little to say about her, either. One man the Post spoke to called her very nice, and they note that her days are now filled with long walks and the occasional bagel. She's active in church craft sales, as well.

 "Why can't she just live in peace?" a client at her hair salon said. "She has a right to her privacy."

She's made friends at church

Having become a pariah to her previous group of well-heeled friends, Ruth Madoff has seemingly been living a pretty solitary life these past few years. Although sources from her new Connecticut hometown speaking to The New York Post say that she's found a new social circle: "a group of women who are active in church craft sales and don't get their nails or hair done." The same neighbor also said, "If they weren't living in Old Greenwich, you would think these ladies were all homeless." She also said that Ruth spends lots of time with them and is "always in the same jeans."

And while this "neighbor" just sounds like a wonderful human being, she also revealed that Madoff, who we previously mentioned has been working for charitable causes, was also seen helping out "at a local church bazaar."

"It was quite the sight to see Ruth Madoff fetching crafts from a tub ­under the table, and taking in money at the sale," the neighbor added. Okay, we get it, anonymous neighbor, you absolutely love the schadenfreude of a humbled Ruth Madoff. 

She had a pretty depressing 76th birthday

Not that she would be so stupid — or even has the means — to throw herself an extravagant birthday party, but Ruth Madoff apparently spent her 76th running mundane errands and visiting her former daughter-in-law. According to The Daily Mail, Madoff started her big day with a quick trip to her late son Mark's ex-wife, Susan Elkin's house, which is some 10 minutes away from her own condo. She then went to the grocery store, the Wines and Spirits shop — which The Daily Mail made sure to point out was advertising "10% off all wines by the case" — and CVS where she treated herself to a $20 pair of sunglasses. At some point in the afternoon, flowers were delivered to Madoff's home, and she finished the whole festive day by returning to Elkin's house, presumably for dinner.

It's a far cry from the lavish affairs the family used to enjoy, like Bernie's 70th birthday party in April of 2008, which Ruth planned at a luxurious venue in Cabos San Lucas. Vanity Fair reports that a dozen guests enjoyed a starlit evening of "cocktails and dinner, serenaded by the crashing waves and kissed by the ocean breezes off the Sea of Cortez." Sure, that sounds great and all, but did she get a 10% on said cocktails? A bargain's a bargain is all we're saying.