Read The Suicide Note Of A Ponzi Schemer

“For decades I’ve felt trapped, like, someone who has had a stroke who can think on the inside, but cannot communicate on the outside. … I feel like I have disappeared long ago. … So here is the story. My secret life of terrible crime.” So begins the suicide note of Robert Markman, whose 20-year Ponzi scheme was only discovered after he shot himself.

Fund manager’s tragic reckoning [Star Tribune]


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  1. aikoto says:

    Now if we can get them to commit suicide BEFORE they start the ponzi scheme. Then we’d have something!

    • Fineous K. Douchenstein says:

      That comment wasn’t completely over the line at all.

      • JollyJumjuck says:

        Maybe so, but if you had lost your entire savings to a Ponzi schemer, I’m sure you’d feel less sympathetic toward those “poor. misunderstood” souls.

        • TonyK says:

          There is a difference. Madoff does not feel bad for his victims and cares nothing for them. This man felt bad and took the only road he saw open to him to resolve the problem.

          Again, he did not set out to defraud anyone. He just kept promising more than he could deliver.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        aikoto is so far on the right side of the line that (s)he can’t even see the line yet.

        I don’t think it is “over the line” to wish bad things on the scum of humanity.

    • Lethe says:

      Wow. Really, read the linked article. This guy started with the best intentions, was able to honour promises for years without scamming anyone, and when the crashing market made it impossible to pay the promised returns, he killed himself so that his insurance money could go to paying off the people he owed.

      I agree that most Ponzi cons are despicable, but this man didn’t (according to the article) keep a dime for himself- he just made promises to family and friends that he couldn’t fulfill.

    • BigSlowTarget says:

      If everyone did things like this guy did there would be very few intentional Ponzi schemes left because the schemers would know that they would eventually need to die to pay investors back. Most would not choose looming inevitable death over doing something else dishonest.

  2. shadowboxer524 says:

    Am I the only one who wants to see Ponzi schemes be turned into a board game? It’s really only because I want people to yell “Ponzi” like they yell “Yahtzee!”

  3. Bativac says:

    Hey, there was one of these Ponzi scheme suiciders here where I live, too. Wayne McLeod shot himself a few months ago. He lived the high life for awhile and then got caught and decided the sweet embrace of death was preferable to going to jail, I guess.

    If anybody’s interested…

  4. milkcake says:

    I read most of the article. Before people start accusing him of the ponzi scheme, the people who bet money with him are just as guilty. They bet money on him, because he “guaranteed” 10% return. EVERYBODY should know that there’s no such thing. People should have known that they were investing in something very scandalous from the moment someone says “guarantee”. That stuff only exists with only investments that are insured and those don’t guarantee 10%. I’m just going to say this guy had a soft spot for people he knew and wanted to make sure they can get some nice return because he was getting 15-20% return when he promised this guaranteed return.

    • Blueskylaw says:

      The people who invested with him told him run a Ponzi scheme?

      What if he was telling people that the investments were guaranteed by the government?

      Do you always “talk with you doctor” before using this medication?

      People who aren’t financially savvy will always exist and that is why the Ponzi scheme will live long after we are gone.

      • milkcake says:

        You do make a good point. But to say ALL of them were not financial savvy just doesn’t make sense. Obviously, there were many who were greedy and did not bother questioning him. The article says many of the investors knew him personally, and NONE of them said, “hey, something is not right, you should stop what you doing now.” (Maybe they did, but Robert decided to keep going, and yet these people continued to invested knowing something is not right).

  5. Beeker26 says:

    Poor thing, having to live his life for so long in unprecedented wealth. Must have just killed him. Oh, wait…

    I guess the novelty of ripping people off for your own amusement and opulent lifestyle wore off after 20+ years.

    Remind me again which circle of Hell is reserved especially for guys like this? Is it 5 or 7?

    • milkcake says:

      I don’t think you read the article. He did not have a opulent life style. He was just merely trying to honor the 10% guarantee return to the people he knew. When he couldn’t, he killed himself, so that he can at least pay some of the money he lost with the life insurance that he had on himself.

      • Beeker26 says:

        So I should feel sorry for a guy that ripped people off for 20 years so that he could make good to his friends?

        • craptastico says:

          maybe you should just try reading the article before you comment instead of guessing what the article’s about

          • Beeker26 says:

            I did read it. Perhaps you should re-read it and this time ignore all the sentimental bias injected by the author. The facts are he defrauded people for 20 years so that his family and friends could benefit.

            And despite the article saying he didn’t live an extravagant lifestyle I somehow think he was still living a lot higher on the hog than most of us, all on the backs of the people he ripped off. Sorry, still no pity here. As far as I’m concerned he committed suicide 20 years too late.

            • Thespian says:

              I still don’t think you read the article. In fact, I’m sure of it.

              • freelunch says:

                unfortunately, some folks in this world have a very dark and negative view on things…

                I think the point being completely missed is that this did not start as a Ponzi scheme… simply a friends & family only investment guarantee that would be supported by higher market gains of his investments. His desire to hold true on the committment and continue the cash flow to family/friends is what kept him running the accounts at 10% when the market couldn’t support it. He should have cashed it out, but didn’t… his hopes to recover is when it became fraud… and the fraud only started 10 years ago.

                Beeker26 just fails to seem the that this started with good intentions and ended on a slipperly slope that appears to have been more committment oriented than greed motivated.

                • RvLeshrac says:

                  You do understand that this made up a large part of Madoff’s defense, as well as the defenses of MOST ponzi operators, right?

                  “We were doing this out of commitment to the people who had invested with us early on.”

            • craptastico says:

              if you read it you’d know he didn’t commit the ponzi scheme for his “own amusement and opulent lifestyle”, so why don’t you just RTFA already or stop posting about it.

        • lymer says:

          No. Feel how you want. It’s just obvious that you didn’t read the article.

        • teamplur says:

          I still don’t think you read the article. All his other accounts were legit. The only people he was defrauding were the ones he was trying NOT to defraud. Sad story really. I think you should read the whole article

  6. FoxCMK says:

    Just wanted to say, thanks for linking to the printable version right off the bat. Sure, it’s annoying to close the print window, but the clicks saved are so appreciated.

  7. Negative says:

    That was just sad.

  8. Shtetl G says:

    So he is a coward and a cheat. I’m going to skip this article.

    • dr_drift says:

      Great call. Why even read the Consumerist article, either? Me, I usually only read the headlines, they tell me everything I need to know. I mean, if it takes more than 30 seconds to read, it’s probably a waste of time. I have rash assumptions to make.

      • Shtetl G says:

        Wahhhhhh! He killed himself for the insurance to pay off his victims but insurances don’t pay out suicides. Wahhhh! He scammed people for his widowed sister. Call the Wahhhmbulance! If he was a man, he would have taken his medicine, gone to jail, and dedicated his life to helping other inmates. I read the article and stick by my initial assessment even after reading his self serving suicide note.

        • dr_drift says:

          “Markman’s company carried “key man” life insurance to protect the business if he died. After two years, insurers would have to pay even if he killed himself.”

          Just looking at the words doesn’t always mean you’re reading. Try looking at the words but also examining their meaning and content. It’s really pretty cool, I’ve been doing it for a super long time.

          • Shtetl G says:

            Missed that part. I’ve only got a limited amount of time to goof off and rtfa and I just skimmed the article. Still seems like a coward and I bet you the insurance is going to fight paying off a dead crook who committed suicide. Insurers fight everything. I doubt his victims will get paid off so quick and I’m sure some of them have widowed sisters that could use the money now but what the hell I didn’t read the article so I’ll defer to your wisdom about what constitutes a hero and what constitutes a coward and thief.

            • psm321 says:

              And if you had read it you’d have learned that the insurance did pay out, and that his wife used it to make the investors whole as much as possible like he asked :)

            • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

              What you call wisdom, the rest of us call having actual knowledge of the situation.

              I can call whomever I wish a coward and a thief; but without any actual piece of knowledge that suggests that, I’m just an idiot. When you make judgement based on no evidence, you’re an idiot.

              You’ve been RTFA’d!

            • freelunch says:

              RTFA, last 4 paragraphs… insurance has already been paid out, and ‘house account’ investors have already received a prorated distribution of the available funds from the ‘house account’+insurance.

              He conducted the account in a dishonest and unethical manner… and he didn’t (couldn’t?) ever share his double life with his family that he was clearly dedicated to…
              He may be a coward for not admitting openly to his mistakes while he was alive, but he was not a coward in his conduct as the information suggests he maintained good intentions on overly optimistic return committments.

            • dr_drift says:

              At no point did I agree or disagree with what he did… I was just chastising you for making your decision based solely on the Consumerist post and the headline. Of course what he did was wrong, and it could be seen as cowardly that he killed himself instead of owning up to the crimes he committed. A lot of people got paid back, though, and the situation has resolved itself. Lessons learned, I suppose.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          “Markman’s company carried “key man” life insurance to protect the business if he died. After two years, insurers would have to pay even if he killed himself.”

          See, if you RTFA you’d know that.

          You’ve been RTFA’d!

          • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

            Also, “He scammed people for his widowed sister” would not be an accurate statement. When he promised his sister at least 10% returns, his mutual funds wer actually performing at 15-20% returns.

            You’ve been RTFA’d!

            • Azzizzi says:

              Yeah, but he continued to pay her the 10% return and anyone she referred.

              He was using money from new investors to pay her and her friends when his fund was no longer paying a 15% return to all investors. This is the scammy part.

              Regular investors were losing money, but his house accounts were still getting the 10%.

              • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

                And this is really the heart of what he did wrong. But based on the article, it seems like it out of guilt and a debilitating sense of honor, which made him unable to reneg on his original promise.

              • freelunch says:

                regular accounts were not affected. If you read to the end of the article, you will note that the ponzi scheme was centered around the returns of the house accounts. His widowed sister received the same prorated payout as the rest of house account investors in the end.

      • apd09 says:

        if it takes more than 30 seconds to read, it’s probably a waste of time

        You nailed it right there, if it takes more than 30 seconds to read then people do get to be one of the first 10 people to comment which then does not give them much needed satisfaction of having other comment on their thread. The point at hand here is not whether reading the article will allow for someone to give an informed opinion, it is that if they read the article no one will care what they have to say.

        • apd09 says:

          30 seconds to read then people do not get to be one of the first 10 people

          I would join the demand for an edit button movement because I do not want to have to take the time to reread what I just typed but for the fact that the point I made is proven true, why take the time to do something when you can just rush to post a comment?

          no edit button needed, just preview, reread, and post.

    • AI says:

      Actually, if you read the fucking article, you’d find out he wasn’t really a coward and a cheat. But whatever.

  9. The cake is a lie! says:

    Well, we can’t really say he did the right thing, but he did try to offer some restitution to those he hurt. You have to take the intent of his heart into consideration before we get too judgmental. He just wasn’t strong enough to stop what he put in motion and suicide seemed to be his only way out. I feel bad for him, but I definitely don’t condone what he did. I’m just glad he felt guilt over his actions instead of someone like Bernie who still gloats about what he did to this day.

    • milkcake says:

      I completely agree. This is just a sad case.

    • legwork says:

      Yep, sad.

      The larger message I get from this story is that, even in these times of foul play and plunder, it might actually be okay to trust financial professionals who kill themselves. Not sure about the rest.

  10. dr_drift says:

    Sad story… but it looks like everything worked out in the end (for the most part).

  11. kennedar says:

    That is a really sad story. It sounds like he simply got in over his head. He made a promise to his sister that he thought was reasonable based on what the market was doing at the time and then it snowballed out of control. While suicide is never the answer, you have to respect that he ensured in death that all the investors were paid off.

    • chaelyc says:

      It’s respectable that making things right & in a way repenting for his white collar sins was of the utmost importance to him. It’s easy to slap a “liar cheater” label on him but it doesn’t seem like this man ever set out to ruin anyone since the realization that he was about to do just that resulted in his suicide. I’m sure we can all recall a decision we were faced with where none of our viable options were morally upstanding. Sometimes good intentions spiral out of control.

  12. jesirose says:

    What life insurance policy pays for suicide?

    • Eat The Rich -They are fat and succulent says:

      Many do. As long as a significant time period has passed from the inception date of the policy.

      Cooling off period and all.

    • milkcake says:

      Many insurance still pays for suicide after 1 year from the date when you signed up for the insurance.

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      “Markman’s company carried “key man” life insurance to protect the business if he died. After two years, insurers would have to pay even if he killed himself.”

      You’ve been RTFA’d!

    • aloria says:

      Most. It’s a common misconception that insurance doesn’t ever pay out for suicides. Usually they just have a several year “waiting period,” for lack of a better term, so that you can’t just buy a policy and off yourself for a payout.

    • TheGreySpectre says:

      Most do as long as you have had the policy for a few years.

  13. teamplur says:

    I suggest everyone read the original article. Sad story. He didn’t seem like a bad guy

    • apd09 says:

      No he did not seem like a bad guy at all, neither did Bernie Madoff. All Bernie did was take money from people and spend it on himself and his family thereby draining the life savings and inheritance from families and future generations. But he donated money to charities and was a big humanitarian as well as philanthropist, so he was a good guy. Victims be damned.

  14. Eat The Rich -They are fat and succulent says:

    There is one major difference between this guy and the majority of those a**hole rip-off artists on Wall St. This guy had a sense of honor and a conscience.

    • milkcake says:

      There are so many who rips people off legally. It’s just a messed up system. This guy at least try to compensate for his wrong doing. The only thing is that he did something illegal.

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        Hell, in the beginning he states he tried to buy back gems he legally sold because of his guilt. Clearly a good man at heart.

        • El-Brucio says:

          A good man at heart would have done the right thing before it became obvious he was going to get caught.

  15. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Sounds like a good man who got caught up in the bubble years like the rest of them.

  16. Azzizzi says:

    “Good guy” if you’re one of his friends who has a house account. Not a good guy if you’re just a random investor.

    • freelunch says:

      the random investors weren’t affected…. most accounts were with Schwab (bottom of article)… only a ‘few’ investors that loaned him money weren’t made whole outside of the house account investors.

  17. sopmodm14 says:

    sorry, when you scheme millions and had the opportunity to lead the high life, while others have to live out their lives with financial loss, its hard to give a spit

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      He didn’t live the high life. He led a fairly moderate life.

      You’ve been RTFA’d!

      • freelunch says:

        well, prior to 2000 he had a mult-million dollar income…. but that was when business was on the level. The details on his post-tech bubble income are not provided… the article only indicates that his income may dropped by three quarters when his managed accounts were impacted similarly.

        He definitely didn’t spend other folks money extravagantly like Madoff did though… he cut staff and moved offices with the crash, while Madoff was supporting an overpriced office with Ponzi scheme funds to maintain investor trust.

  18. Radiating says:

    This wasn’t really a ponzi scheme. What happened was he made a promise to deliver a service which he could legitimately deliver, and then at one point his business collapsed. Instead of saying that he went bankrupt and his investors are screwed, he didn’t want to disappoint them so he essentially loaned money, *fraudulently*, from new investors to pay off existing investors. His plan was to get his business up and running again and fix everything using the fraud to buy him time. He failed to make his business work so instead of going bankrupt and being brought up on fraud, he committed suicide to get the insurance. This was actually a very nice thing for him to do because the RIGHT thing to do was just to close his business which would have partially wiped out his investors, instead they got all their money back.

    • freelunch says:

      not all their money…. rather, it was some undetermined amount.

      I agree though that calling this a ponzi scheme is a little shaky. It is similar to investing money at the bank into a CD for a guaranteed rate of income, and then the bank collapsing and informing you that they aren’t FDIC insurred…

      guaranteed rate of return is always supported by an expectation that the controlling party can receive higher returns on average, and that they will net an operating profit with the difference between actual returns and paid returns.That was Mark’s original intention – NOT to operate a ponzi scheme.

  19. TheGreySpectre says:

    I am glad I read the article. I feel consumerists summary left out the very important detail of the reason he shot himself was so that he could get as close as possible to paying back investors.

    Also…the guy did not live an extravagant lifestyle.

    Very worthwhile read I think.

    • JollyJumjuck says:

      I would say this man was likely the exception to the rule when it comes to Ponzi schemers. I cannot imagine most of them following the same line of thought. In fact, I’m sure there are schemers out there right now, thinking, “How can I turn this story to my advantage?”

      • freelunch says:

        you have to wonder if he planned to use the life insurance policy all along, or if he was driven to it by the recent market crash.

  20. thebt1 says:

    This is all very sad, there are no winners in any of this.

  21. Extractor says:

    Read the article. Still a scumbag.