Could Carmela Soprano Have Been Sued Like Ruth Madoff?
Carmela's lifestyle was financed by Tony
The $45 million lawsuit against Ruth Madoff yesterday by Irving Picard leads me to wonder: what kind of precedent might this set?
Certainly Ruth is not the first wife to have benefited from the thievery of her husband. Down through history, from Mrs. Jesse James to Mrs. Lansky to Mrs. Gotti and, of course, our beloved if fictional Carmela Soprano, wives have enjoyed lavish lifestyles because of their husbands' criminality, and I imagine they could have been sued by the feds by the same logic that Picard is using. I guess there might have to be a bankruptcy involved, but maybe not. Prosecutors can be creative, after all.
Picard says Ruth lived a "life of splendor" on proceeds from the Shtunk's fraud, and you can't really argue with him. I wonder if he might be trying to play a bit to the crowds here, as Picard has been a subject of a great deal of unjustified criticism by victims, as Joe Nocera pointed out in a column a few weeks ago. This lawsuit may, or may not, get some of the critics off his back.
While I'd love to see Ruth reduced to the penury of her victims, I have doubts that Picard is going to have much luck collecting and whether the attendant legal fees will exceed any possible recovered sums.
But it's an interesting precedent. Might even serve as a deterrent. Only question is whether future bankruptcy trustees will have the moxie to engage in a similar spouse-suing strategy.
© 2009 Gary Weiss. All rights reserved.