(CBSNewYork/AP) – In her first interview since her husband’s arrest airing Sunday at 7 p.m. on “60 Minutes,” Ruth Madoff told Morley Safer that she and her husband, disgraced financier Bernard Madoff, attempted suicide following his role in a multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme.

Now Bernie Madoff has a surprising admission of his own: He is happy in prison.

Barbara Walters said Thursday that she interviewed Madoff for two hours at the prison in Butner, N.C., where he’s serving a 150-year sentence. No cameras were allowed in the prison. Walters said Madoff told her he thought about suicide before being sent to prison. But since he’s been there, he no longer thinks about it.

John Montone On Ruth’s Admission, Bernie’s Denial

According to Walters, Madoff says he has terrible remorse and horrible nightmares over his epic fraud, but feels “safer here (in prison) than outside. I have people to talk to, no decisions to make. I know I will die in prison. I lived the last 20 years of my life in fear. Now, I have no fear because I’m no longer in control.”

Ruth Madoff (credit: CBS/60 Minutes)

She also said he told her he understands why his one-time clients hate him, and that the average person thinks he “robbed widows and orphans.” But he also told her, “I made wealthy people wealthier.”

Bernie Madoff was arrested on Dec. 11, 2008, the morning after his sons notified authorities through an attorney that he had confessed to them that his investment business was a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme.

He admitted cheating thousands of investors. He pleaded guilty to fraud charges.

Madoff, 73, ran his scheme for at least two decades, using his investment advisory service to cheat individuals, charities, celebrities and institutional investors.

An investigation found Madoff never made any investments, instead using the money from new investors to pay returns to existing clients — and to finance a lavish lifestyle for his family. Losses have been estimated at around $20 billion, making it the biggest investment fraud in U.S. history.

Meanwhile, following Ruth Madoff’s stunning suicide claim, some of the angry people her husband ripped off are also speaking out.  Madoff’s  words are being met with much skepticism.

“These are not stupid people. I believe if they wanted to kill themselves, they could have killed themselves,” Judith Welling told CBS 2’s Tony Aiello.

Ruth Madoff told Safer it was Christmas Eve 2008 – just 2 weeks after her husband was busted for running the biggest Ponzi scheme of all time — in the bedroom of their penthouse apartment, they tried to overdose on Ambien – a sleeping aid.

“She says she was utterly devastated, and again, I have no reason not to believe her,” Safer told Aiello.

“I wouldn’t believe anything she said. I wouldn’t believe anything anyone in that family said,” Welling said.

Safer said he understands the skepticism of some Madoff victims.

“You cannot blame the victims for doubting anything a Madoff utters, other than a full confession,” he said.

Sound off on the Madoffs below

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

Comments (17)
  1. KY Jellybean says:

    Bernie thinks he was a sort of hero in his own head ,he has said that
    his clients were gullible and expecting too much so it is kind of their own
    greedy fault. I smell a Madoff family book & movie coming out soon via
    this new TV exposure. Bernie nor the living family feel not one bit sorry for
    being clean crooks,the joke was on their clients expecting massive profits
    and not reading what was really going on between the lines.

  2. Dave says:

    After reading all of this BS,This Jew seems more like a Baptist preacher from the back woods. ” I HAVE SEEN THE LIGHT.I HAVE BEEN TO THE MOUNTIAN TOP”

    Everybody say Amen
    I have spoken

  3. NeedSun says:

    I love it when people say they TRIED to commit suicide…if these people REALLY wanted to be dead, they’d be dead.

  4. Robin Amy Bass says:

    so what they got, instead of dying, was a good nights sleep? is the irony not lost on any one here?

  5. karen s says:

    how disgraceful that we must hear that bernie madoff is happy in prison. how disgraceful is it that we are paying for him to be happy, and talk to people and feel safe, and eat 3 squares a day, and read books. probably somewhere in the area of $30,000 a year. his voice, any books, etc. he & ruth should not be thrust into our airwaves. his happiness comes at the destruction of so many lives. go pound rocks & dig ditches. may we never hear their names again.

  6. Corinna says:

    You’re a bitter, little man who confuses randomly being born with fair skin with moral superiority. Wrong on all counts, moron.

    1. Corinna says:

      (That comment was to that Johndenugent white supremacist character, btw.)

  7. justpassinthru says:

    So Ruth Madoff says that Bernie thinks “that the average person thinks he “robbed widows and orphans.” but he also told her, “I made wealthy people wealthier.”
    Err … yes, Ruth, you self-righteous ___, he made wealthy people WEALTHIER by ROBBING widows and orphans…”
    Do two wrongs make a right?

  8. Practical says:

    Stop giving this low life publicity.No more interviews or reports,let him rot and die alone.

  9. Meme Meyagi says:

    what is done about 7 million mooslime terrorists living in usa?

  10. Peter says:

    He is happy in prison because Bubba is having his way with him !!!!

  11. diver says:

    He feels safe and happy in prision? If you believe that he’s got a bridge he’d like to sell you and in some cases probably has!

    1. The Realist says:

      He’s safer in prison than he would be in Zuccotti Park.

  12. The Realist says:

    Maybe Bernie should visit the O.W.S. protesters.

  13. None Of Your Business says:

    Ol’ Bernie the Crook may as well be happy in prison. He isn’t going anywhere else. And after all, he’s living well at the Federal Country Club rent-free at the taxpayes’ expense, meals and clothes included gratis.

    Why don’t you do us a favor, Bernie, and try the pills again? And this time, Bernie, take enough to do the trick.

  14. F-maddoffjackoff says:

    After lying for decades, are we really to believe that they attempted suicide?
    I’m sure lots of people will help them with it if they couldn’t do it right the first time.
    Asked how many ambien pills she took, she replies ” I don’t remember” … Reallly? Maybe you only took 2-3 pills because you’re a coward anyway and didn’t want to commit suicide but only mentioning it now so people can feel sympathy for you. WRONG! Nobody believes you. You’ve lied before so there’s no reason to believe ANYTHING you have to say.
    And is it really fair that Madoff is happy in prison while the people he robbed has to worry about making bill payments etc…He doesn’t have to worry about meals or a roof over his head while some of the people he robbed won’t know if they’ll even have a home.
    Prison is not suppose to make you happy. Punishment is NOT suppose to make someone happy. He’s getting off easy. But that’s how this system works unfortunately.

    1. E says:

      Are you a Madoff victim because it sounds like you know alot about the outcomes.
      Mr. E

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