tonight on "nightline," madoff stunner. ruth madoff, wife of convicted ponzi schemer bernard madoff, reveals shocking news about the couple's darkest hour, which she says as he is scheme was expose. tonight, a tale of life and death. plus, busted on craigslist. a vast online world of your stolen stuff, for sale in plain sight. but now, thieves may be meeting their match. it's cops and robbers on the internet, as a special police team goes after the bad guys. and two americas. she had everything. a penthouse, millimeters, two beautiful children. a seemingly charmed life.
until a brush with her own mortality sent her on an astounding journey. >> announcer: from the global resources of abc news, with terry moran, cynthia mcfadden and bill weir in new york city, this is "nightline," october 26th, 2011. >> good evening, i'm sicynthia mcfadden. we begin with a stunning new revelation in the story of bernard madoff, the man behind the ponzi scheme that bilked thousands of people out of millllions of dollars. . tonight, his wife, silent since his arrest, has spoken for the first time. abc's brian ross, who has reported extensively on the madoff case, joins us now. brian? >> reporter: cynthia, mrs. madoff is saying the shame of being bernie and ruth madoff led the couple to try suicide. so, while there may be some who doubt her new version of events, there is no doubt this is a family that has been torn apart.
bernie and ruth madoff tried to kill themselves on christmas eve, in this new york city penthouse apartment. it was just two weeks after madoff had been arrested and his thousands of victims realized he had cheated them out of billions of dollars. they both faced death threats and hate mail. >> i don't know whose idea it was, but we decided to kill ourselves, because it was -- it was so horrendous what was happening. we had terrible phone calls, hate mail. just beyond anything. and i said, i can't -- i just can't go on anymore. >> reporter: ruth and bernie, high school sweethearts, had been married 50 years. when he was arrested, she chose to side with him over her sons who had turned him in, to the outrage of her friends and even bernie's secretary. >> she made the wrong choice. and i'm sure she's paying for it. >> reporter: on that christmas eve, ruth says, she went around
the apartment, gathered some precious jewelry and sent them off to friends and relatives as a final gesture. >> that's when i packed up some things to send to my sons and my grandchildren. i had some lovely antique things and things that i thought they might want. i mailed them, it was christmas eve. it added to the whole depression. we took pills. and woke up the next day. >> what did you take? >> i think ambien. >> how many? >> i don't even remember. i took what we had. he took more. >> did you leave notes? >> no. it was very impulsive and i'm glad we woke up. >> reporter: her account of the christmas eve suicide pact is questioned by nick casel, the head of the private security firm hired to guard bernie during house arrest. he was inside the apartment that night until about 7:00 p.m.
>> sitting there with them, talking, i didn't see anything unusual. >> reporter: nothing that would suggest they were about to take pills and try to kill themselves? >> that's correct. >> reporter: it was last year that the may doch's eldest son mark did take his life, hanging himself in his new york apartment on the second anniversary of his father's arrest. mark's widow, sketch knee, told chris cuomo of abc news' "20/20," that mark felt ruth was wrong to stand by bernie instead of her son. >> he couldn't understand how she could continuously stand by this man, who ruined so many lives, who ruined his life. >> you blame ruth? >> yes. i'm angry at her. very angry at her. >> reporter: ruth went into hiding in florida after madoff went to prison. even dying her hair red in an effort to avoid being recognized when she returned to new york. ruth has been allowed by federal authorities to keep more than $2
million. she now lives in boca raton, florida. she's denied knowing anything about her husband's massive scheme, saying her close friends and even her own sister were among the victims who lost everything. cynthia? >> oh, brian, a story that is not over yet. our thanks. and just ahead, bought a bargain on craigslist, like a purebred puppy that seems just too good to be true? well, maybe it is. [ male announcer ] at&t and verizon charge you extra for going over 2 gigabytes of data. t-mobile slows down your data speed. with sprint you don't get charged extra and you don't slow down. and you get unlimited data, text and calling to any mobile -- for only $79.99. the best unlimited plan...wins. make the most of unlimited data with a brilliant screen on a pencil thin phone. introducing the samsung galaxy s ii epic 4g touch. trouble hearing on the phone? visit sprintrelay.com.
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>> announcer: "nightline" continues from new york city with cynthia mcfadden. >> if you are one of the millimeters of people who shops for bargains on craigslist, you probably have seen what looks like really great deals. ipad 2, computer, gps device, all at incredible prices. but you ever wonder why they're so cheap? it may be that the merchandise is stolen. and the police investigators you're about to meet may have their eyes on it, too. here's abc's neal karlinsky. >> reporter: inside this cramped office at the portland police department, the shopping spree never ends. >> how much? >> reporter: if you are thinking right about now this isn't your average burglary squad, you're right. >> what is the price on it?
>> reporter: these detectives spend their time jamming to mc hammer and surfing the web, sending text messages from so-called burning phones. and sending e-mails from phony accounts. all part of the one of the strangest shopping spreeps you'll find. >> are you set on the $1,600. >> give you $300. >> reporter: they're responding to ads on craigslist for everything from computers to guitars, motor cycles -- >> i got your message and you thought your found your stolen ninja? >> it's on craigslist right now. >> how come you think it's yours? >> there's only two others in portland. >> reporter: you name it, they're looking for it. but they're really only shopping for one thing. bad guys, unloading stolen merchandise. >> i've had two. >> reporter: craigslist is a boochling marketplace where regular people make honest deems to sell every day things. but police say it's also become the pawnshop for stolen goods. >> really pawnshops in portland
are well regulated so we don't have a ton of property going through pawnshops anymore. so, we started looking, where is everything going? craigslist. it's like the new pawnshop. >> reporter: the range of stolen items they've recovered is staggering. >> we bought back gpss, jewelry, cell phones, baby strollers, construction material, old cameras. >> reporter: craigslist buy-backs like these aren't just hatching here, but across the country. kayaks in florida, bulldog puppies, tailgates in texas. the stings work like this. police text the seller, map out a place to do the buy and warn victims not to get involved. >> we told you this morning and again, under no circumstances text him or have anybody text him. >> reporter: right now, they've got a meeting with a seller of a top of the line mountain bike they suspect is stolen and they're about to do the sting. >> here he comes. >> reporter: the seller arrives with the bike, but they don't let on right away.
first, they make sure it's really the stolen bike. >> we're coming. >> reporter: it is. detectives try to decipher how this guy who goes by the name alphie, got it. >> i don't know. >> reporter: but detectives can't prove he actually stole it. so, they confiscate the bike -- >> another bad bike off the streets, going to go to jail. >> reporter: and after a tough grilling, they cut him loose. this guy, who police say is no stranger to hand cups, items us craigslist is the best thing that ever happened to him. >> it's an american dream, have your own business. >> reporter: come on, they're letting you off. we can be honest here. these guys, none of them think you didn't nope you were deeming a stolen bike. >> by the time i got it, checked the numbers and then i looked on ebay how much it was worth, i knew it wasn't just a cheap give away. >> detective dave anderson and
dan slason say their cases grew out of demand. these victims set up a meeting with the suspected thief, and took this video on their cell phone. >> baby stroller thief right here. this guy steals baby strollers. >> reporter: they put up flyers, called around and found out their neighbors were hit, too. and their strollers were all turning up on craigslist. >> too late, buddy. >> reporter: how many strollers do you think? >> from people e maiming me, 20. i know it's a lot more than that. >> reporter: police are still on the case. still, their success rate is high. more than 100 deals in six months. driving to their next case, there's no mistaking it. >> there's the trailer. >> reporter: a stolen trailer that a man had in his family for 35 years turned up for sale and was a perfect match when detectives arrived. >> i walked up, within a matter of ten seconds, could see the different things, from the front of the trailer to the back, which says that's his trailer.
>> reporter: this time, the victim, mark, is there just a few minutes later to make a positive identification. >> got the little twist that you mentioned, the -- >> here -- >> the holes. >> yeah, yeah. >> reporter: mark told us he'd been checking craigslist every week for five straight months to get to this point. >> i always figured that somebody was going to flip it or something and try to make a few hundred bucks and i thought the best place to sell is on craigslist. >> reporter: and you just spotted it this morning and before sundown you got it back. >> yeah, yeah. and they've had it on craigslist, i think, two, three days. >> reporter: the man who is trying to sell it is now a victim, too. he didn't know it was stolen when he bought it and now it's gone. you're a pretty good sport. here it is, you're out 300 bucks. >> i've had worse. >> reporter: really? >> i mean, people always stealing from other people, unfortunately. that's why i had it chained to the fence. >> reporter: what would you say to people saying, this is small
scale stuff. we really need all these detectives? >> you have to go after the centimeters but you have to go after where they buy and sell the property. because if they don't have an outlet to sell it, then they don't have a way of making money. so, it may discourage crime. >> reporter: when the music stops, this shopping spree between cops and robbers isn't about jail -- sometimes it's about sending a victim home with his precious belongings. and letting the bad guys know that when it comes to fencing their goods, seller beware. >> see you, man. >> thanks, guys. >> reporter: i'm neal karlinsky for "nightline" in portland, oregon. >> and craigslist tells us that they are happy to hear that people are getting their belongings back, thanks to law enforcement using digital evidence the site provides. and just ahead, an incredible journey of discovery for a woman in a fight for her life.
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it turns out that the growing sense that the rich seem to be getting richer while the rest of ericans are just running in place is accurate. the congressional budget office reports that over the past three decades, the income of the wealthiest 1% of americans has skyrocketed 275%. tonight, we preview a moving hbo documentary, "the education of dee dee ricks," which premieres tomorrow night on hbo and showing that kind of imbalance may even determine who lives and who dies. dee dee ricks was young, only
38, when she found out she had stage two breast cancer. the divorced mother of two young sons pulled herself out of poverty and made a fortune on wall street. how did you make the decision to have a double mastectomy? >> i was told my chances are better by having a double mastectomy. you do the most radical street possible. i want to be around for my boys. >> reporter: as dee dee fought for her own life, she took on another fight, as well. to help poor women have the same chance for a cure that she did. that battle is at the heart of a new hbo documentary airing tomorrow called "the education of dee dee ricks." >> i felt it was my obligation to give back to those who didn't have what i had. >> reporter: so, just one week after a double mastectomy, dee dee travels 60 blocks forth from her penthouse apartment to harlem, a world away. to meet with renowned surgeon dr. harold freeman. >> i was really going to cut
cancer out of harlem. but cancer wouldn't yield to the knife. why? because the people were poor and uninsured and coming in too late for surgery to be the main answer. >> reporter: if you see a breast cancer in a woman early, you can almost always cure it at this point. >> early breast cancer, the earliest stages of breast cancer, are curable, almost to 100%. late breast chanancer, people d from it at nearly 100%. >> reporter: a shocking reality brought home to dee dee at their first meeting when dr. freeman tells her he's struggling to raise $2.5 million or lose a vital pledge of the same amount. >> i will get you your money. >> oh, my god. >> and i'm going to get it for you in the next couple of months. >> oh, my god. oh, god. >> what you have done for this nation -- and the fact that you
have to go out there and work to raise $2.5 million is a disgrace. you'll get your $2.5 million, you're going to get a lot more. this is going to be my job. >> thank you. i don't know if i can talk anymore. >> reporter: something else important happened up in harlem. an otherwise unlikely friendship that opened her heart and broke it. >> it's a tale of two cities in a way. tale of two cities. what can happen to two different women with the same disease in the same city. >> reporter: dr. freeman introduces dee dee to his patient, cynthia dodson. cynthia was diagnosed late with stage four breast cancer, as is so often the case when women are uninsured. >> i'm supposed to die? because i wasn't, you know, born with a silver spoon? i'm supposed to die? you have to come in with the
attitude that, yeah, okay, i have cancer, but i'm not trying to die. i'm doing my best to live, i'm doing my best to think positive. prayer worked for me a lot. it wasn't so much prayer with others, it was more of me one on one with god myself. because i had plenty of nights where i was like, please don't take my life. >> it's women like you that make me want to be a better person and go out there and fight as hard as i can. >> reporter: out of her own pocket, dee dee paid for cynthia's care. but it was too late. the disease that brought them together ultimately separated them. cynthia died at age 44. >> it's not acceptable that women die of breast cancer or because they're poor. and because they're uninsured. we can fix that, america. >> reporter: if dee dee ricks has her way, we will.
so, how much money have you given to all of this? lots personally, as well. >> personally i have given a little over seven figures. >> reporter: wow. that's putting your money where your mouth is. and you've raised? >> we're coming in, all of the efforts, since being diagnosed at about $10.3 million. >> reporter: $10.3 million? >> the best thing that ever happened to me was cancer, because it opened up to all the suffering that's going on in this world. and i want to make a difference. this is not a medical issue. this is a moral issue. thank you. >> more on the documentary and on dr. freeman's work can be found on our website, abcnews.com/nightline. finally tonight, we're saddened at the loss of daniel burke who helped build abc. he was president and then