- Associated Press - Saturday, December 11, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) — Disgraced financier Bernard Madoff’s eldest son hanged himself by a dog leash in his apartment Saturday, exactly two years after his father’s arrest in a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme that swindled thousands of investors of their life savings.

Mark Madoff, 46, was found hanging from a ceiling pipe in the living room of his SoHo loft apartment as his 2-year-old son slept in a nearby bedroom, two law enforcement officials told The Associated Press.

Madoff, who reported his father to authorities, has never been criminally charged in the biggest investment fraud in U.S. history and has said he and his brother Andrew never knew of their father’s crimes. A law enforcement official told the AP that Mark was not facing imminent arrest and hadn’t spoken to investigators pursuing possible charges in over a year.

But he and other Madoff relatives have remained under investigation and been named in multiple investor lawsuits accusing them of profiting from the scheme.

“This is a terrible and unnecessary tragedy,” Madoff’s lawyer, Martin 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.”

In this undated photograph provided by Security Traders Association of New York, Mark Madoff is shown. Mark Madoff, one of Bernard Madoff's sons, was found dead of an apparent suicide on Saturday, Dec. 11, 2010, on the second anniversary of his father's arrest, according to a law enforcement official. (AP Photo/Security Traders Association of New York, Kimberly Unger)
In this undated photograph provided by Security Traders Association of New York, ... more >

A lawyer for Mark’s mother, Ruth Madoff, said, “She’s heartbroken.”

Mark Madoff’s body was discovered after his wife, Stephanie, became concerned when he sent an e-mail to her early Saturday morning that someone should check on their 2-year-old son, said the law enforcement officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly about the death.

Madoff’s wife, who is at Disney World in Florida with her 4-year-old daughter, sent her stepfather to the home. The toddler was found unharmed, along with a dog.

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 sons.

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.

Just days ago, a court-appointed trustee filed a lawsuit seeking to recover any money from the fraud scheme that had been paid to members of the Madoff family, including Mark Madoff’s two young children.

At least a half-dozen Madoff employees have also faced criminal charges.

A year ago, the trustee, Irving Picard, 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.

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