Sondra Wiener, Bernie Madoff’s sister, and her husband were found dead in an apparent murder-suicide in Florida on Thursday. Police responded to a 911 call in Boynton Beach, Fl. and found Sondra, 87, and her husband, Marvin Wiener, 90, both dead from gunshot wounds.
It is unknown who placed the emergency call, but authorities said that they received a distress call around 1 p.m. that “a male and female were unresponsive inside their residence.”
The family also invoked what it referred to as “Marsy’s Law” for Marvin Wiener, which is a Florida state law that provides protections for crime victims. Personally identifying information, including information about the crime scene, can be made confidential to avoid harassment. However, The Washington Post was able to uncover his identity due to their relationship to his high-profile brother-in-law.
Bernie Madoff, who died last year in a federal prison hospital, was well known in the U.S. for pulling off one of the largest Ponzi schemes in financial history. The infamous fraudster, who at one time was said to be worth over $64.8 billion, was a former chairman of the NASDAQ stock market exchange in New York City.
Born in Queens, New York, and the son of a stockbroker, he founded Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, a penny-stock brokerage that he served as chairman for until his arrest. According to the Security Exchange Commission and many whistleblowers in the company however, he received many unethical business complaints that were left without investigations for years.
He was sentenced to 150 years in prison for securities fraud in 2009, which was the maximum sentence allowed for his crimes. He allegedly started the Ponzi scheme back in the ’90s, but wasn’t arrested until 2008, nearly 18 years later. According to prosecutors, he defrauded investors out of approximately $18 million. He died of kidney failure in 2021 at the age of 82.
According to the Washington Post, some major investors included Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel and film director Steven Spielberg. The Ponzi scheme and Madoff’s victims has also been portrayed in film and television such as Chasing Madoff, a documentary, and Madoff, an ABC miniseries starring Richard Dreyfuss.
Through his actions, he also let his family go into financial ruin, many of whom were also major investors in his company. Bernie Madoff’s sons, Mark and Anthony Madoff, as well as his brother Peter, and Peter’s daughter, Shana, were sued for over $198 million in 2009 for negligence and “breach of fiduciary duty.”
On the second anniversary of his father’s arrest, Mark Madoff hanged himself. Later, Madoff’s wife Ruth revealed that they had previously tried to take their own lives on Christmas Eve by overdosing on pills. Madoff’s other son, Andrew, died of cancer in 2014.
Sondra Wiener and her husband Marvin mark the fifth and sixth deaths in relation to Bernie Madoff, where a majority of his victims, even within his own family, have taken their own lives.
In 2009, Sondra Wiener’s son, David Wiener, told the New York Post that his mother was among over a thousand people who lost a significant amount of money due to her brother’s crimes.
“She lost millions in this whole thing,” said one of her neighbors in the Ballen Isles Country Club, where celebrities Serena and Venus Williams were once community members. “It didn’t seem like she saw it coming. What kind of person scams their own sister?”
The official cause of death has yet to be determined by the Florida Medical Examiner’s Office.