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Did Mark Madoff have a conscience? Or did Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme push him over the edge?

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Mark Madoff, the son of Bernie Madoff  and his $65 billion dollar Ponzi scheme, was found dead hanging in his Manhattan apartment Saturday morning. The suicide comes on the second anniversary of his father's arrest in 2008.

In the wake of his death as well as the circumstances leading to his suicide, one might have to ask:

Is Mark Madoff clearly just victim of his father's financial wrongdoings? Or could he not bear to live with the guilt of possibly assisting his father in one of the biggest financial scams in history?

To be fair, I'm not going to sit here and pass judgment, especially when that person is no longer here to defend themselves. In working for years with my father in a pretty high end business, I find it hard to believe that Mark Madoff, while maybe not assisting his father in his actions (he worked on the trading desk of his father's company, so his job wouldn't necessarily be associated with the Ponzi scheme), was oblivious to the operation, which supposedly started in the early 1980's.

Mark Madoff and his brother Andrew have both stated they were unaware of their father's actions. In fact, Mark Madoff reported his father to the authorities after Bernie Madoff allegedly confessed the entire scheme to him. Whether it's insurance fraud or a Ponzi scheme, the participants in unethical practices are so warped that they fail to realize the hardships they bring on their own families. If that's the case and he was innocent, Mark Madoff was unfairly suffering from the sins of his father.

Since Madoff was incarcerated, a possible threat (although no imminent charges) of implication continued to loom over the heads of Mark and Andrew Madoff. Their family name is forever tarnished, and the accusations (whether true or not), harassment, and death threats from those who were the victims of Bernie Madoff's crimes continued to linger. Things had gotten so bad that Mark Madoff's own wife Stephanie went to court petitioning to have her name legally changed.

The above mentioned is a heavy cross to carry if you are innocent let alone guilty. And perhaps the guilt was just too much for Mark Madoff to bear if he was in fact, an accomplice. We will never know for sure what secrets he took to his grave.

If Mark Madoff is innocent of any indiscretions, he has become a tragic figure in this awful story, and more than anything a victim of his father's own karma.

Contact Joe Vallee at jvallee@philly2philly.com