NEW YORK (Reuters) - The wife of financial swindler Bernard Madoff said in an interview to be aired Sunday that the couple attempted suicide by taking pills on Christmas Eve 2008 after his estimated $65 billion Ponzi scheme was exposed.
Madoff, 73, is serving a 150-year prison sentence after confessing to running a decades-long Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of billions of dollars, considered the biggest financial fraud in history. He was arrested on Dec. 11, 2008.
"I don't know whose idea it was, but we decided to kill ourselves because it was so horrendous what was happening," Ruth Madoff told the CBS program "60 Minutes" in her first interview.
The couple's elder son Mark, 46, hanged himself in his New York apartment last Dec. 11, the second anniversary of his father's arrest. Mark and Andrew Madoff turned in their father to authorities a day after he confessed to them.
Ruth Madoff said she and her husband took Ambien sleeping pills and possibly some Klonopin anti-anxiety pills in their suicide attempt.
"We had terrible phone calls. Hate mail, just beyond anything and I said ... 'I just can't go on anymore,"' she said. "(Christmas) added to the whole depression."
"We took pills and woke up the next day. ... It was very impulsive and I am glad we woke up," Ruth Madoff said.
Excerpts of the interview were released Wednesday.
Before the suicide attempt the couple sent a package of sentimental items, including jewelry, to their younger son Andrew, breaching a court order. Three years later Andrew asked his mother why she had sent the package.
"And she told me that she and my father had planned to kill themselves. ... They put that package together beforehand and sent it out," Andrew Madoff told "60 Minutes".
Defrauded Madoff investors have viewed his sons, wife and other family members suspiciously, arguing it is impossible that they did not know about his lies. No family members have been criminally charged and they reject accusations that they were aware of the fraud. Madoff has said he acted alone.
Since he pleaded guilty in March 2009, seven other people have been arrested in the case, including several of his long-time employees and an outside accountant.
For decades, investors big and small flocked to the New York-based money manager, hoping to gain entree onto his seemingly exclusive client list as he promised steady returns that defied the broader markets. In reality, Madoff always was seeking new investors to keep his scheme running.
A court-appointed trustee is trying to recover money for investors defrauded in the Ponzi scheme, a fraud in which early investors are paid with money from new ones. The schemes often collapse when sufficient investors can't be lined up or when a number of investors want to cash out.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Will Dunham)
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