BOSTON – The wife of disgraced money manager withdrew more than $15 million from a firm co-owned by her husband — including $10 million on the day their children turned her husband over to authorities for overseeing an alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme, the top securities regulator in Massachusetts said Wednesday.
Secretary of State William Galvin said Ruth Madoff, 67, withdrew $5.5 million on Nov. 25 and $10 million on Dec. 10 — the day before Bernard Madoff was arrested — from Cohmad Securities Corp., a New York firm co-owned by her husband.
The secretary cited wire transfer records produced by Cohmad as proof of the withdrawals. They came as Madoffs’ scheme was unraveling as investors filed $7 billion worth of redemption requests.
They also appeared to follow what authorities consider a disturbing trend on the part of the Madoffs to hide money that could be used to reimburse burned investors.
Prosecutors have already said investigators found 100 signed checks worth $173 million that Madoff was ready to send out to his closest family and friends at the time of his arrest in December. Two weeks later, during the Christmas holidays, Madoff sent more than $1 million in jewelry and heirlooms to family and friends.
“We’re not accusing her of anything wrong,” Galvin spokesman Brian McNiff said of Ruth Madoff. “It’s just one of the things that came out in the response, such as it was, from Cohmad” to a subpoena from Massachusetts officials. “Now, what someone in New York or the feds may think of it may be entirely different.”
A telephone number listed to Ruth Madoff in Palm Beach, Fla., rang busy and a number in New York had been disconnected. A Cohmad spokeswoman in New York said the company had no comment. Ira Sorkin, a lawyer for Bernard Madoff, said he had no comment on the withdrawals.
The new deadline is March 13.
As he had during a similar extension a month ago, Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Litt wrote that the government requested the extension “for the purpose of allowing time to conduct additional discussions regarding a possible disposition of this case.”
It has been widely anticipated the case will be resolved before trial through an agreement between the government and Madoff’s lawyers.
The victims identified so far have included ordinary people and Hollywood celebrities, along with large hedge funds, international banks and charities in the U.S., Europe and Asia.
Madoff was arrested after investigators said he confessed to his sons that he had swindled investors of a mammoth Ponzi scheme in which early investors are paid with money raised from new investors. The scheme collapses when there is no money to repay the last investors.
Madoff, a 70-year-old former Nasdaq stock market chairman, remains confined to his Manhattan penthouse under house arrest.
Galvin made his disclosure in a complaint asking Massachusetts state regulators to stop Cohmad — a brokerage firm apparently named by merging the last names of co-founders Maurice Cohn and Madoff — from doing business in Massachusetts because it failed to provide information to Galvin about its relationship with Madoff.
An associate of Madoff, Robert Jaffe, appeared last week before officers of the Massachusetts Security Division, but the complaint says he repeatedly invoked his Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. Galvin has described Jaffe as a registered agent and principal of Cohmad, which is in the same New York City building as Madoff’s firm.
Jaffe’s lawyers have said he had no knowledge of Madoff’s actions and was himself a victim who lost millions of dollars.
Galvin said the discovery of Ruth Madoff’s withdrawals raises questions about whether there was a broader conspiracy behind Bernard Madoff’s actions. Madoff has projected himself as someone who acted alone.
“As you know, the tale is being told that it was just Mr. Madoff who apparently worked 24 hours a day, shooting out false invoices and statements to people,” Galvin told The Associated Press in an interview.
“It would seem as if some of the facts that we’ve discovered would raise, at least, some questions on that. I certainly am not questioning the thoroughness of my colleagues in other jurisdictions, but I think our findings, which we’re sharing with them, would hopefully spur them on to be very thorough in looking over all the parties involved here and not to accept facile explanations about how this happened,” Galvin added.
He also cited a $526,000 Cohmad payment to a woman he said was associated with Madoff — but not licensed in Massachusetts or ever a Cohmad employee — as more potential evidence of a conspiracy.
“It suggests to us that this is one big entity,” Galvin said.