Madoff Defends Late Sons in Email to NBC News

In an email sent to NBC News Friday, Bernie Madoff, the man behind one of the most infamous Ponzi schemes in American history, discussed the pain of losing his two sons and refuted claims that they knowingly participated in the scam.

"As difficult as it is for me to live with the pain I have inflicted on so many, there is nothing to compare with the degree of pain I endure with the loss of my son's Mark and Andy," Madoff said.

His son Andrew died in September at age 48 after a long battle with cancer. His son Mark committed suicide in 2010 at age 46 on the second anniversary of his father's arrest.

Irving Picard, the court-appointed trustee seeking to recover money for bilked investors filed an updated lawsuit last summer accusing Madoff's sons of having full knowledge of their father's scheme and using it as their "personal cookie jar" that they tapped through sham loans, fictitious trades and deferred compensation.

"What is still my most important goal is to do everything in my power to protect their legacy," Madoff said of his sons. "Although neither of my son's were ever charged with anything. They were subjected to the completely false and slanderous claims and remarks of the Trustee and the media."

Madoff said his sons were compensated at the same rate as the traders that they managed, disputing Picard's claim that his sons should have known their compensation was unrealistic.

Madoff also defended his sons against several other claims Picard made, including an alleged incriminating email Andrew sent to Mark and loans linking his sons to the scam. Click here to see Madoff's full email.

In a statement to CNBC, Amanda Remus, a spokeswoman for Picard's office, said Madoff's credibility was "highly suspect."

"We stand by our filings, which speak for themselves, and we intend to pursue recoveries against both estates," she said.

Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison in 2009.

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