By Lisa Cornwell Associated Press
The son of Bernard Madoff’s longtime accountant, who himself pleaded guilty to securities fraud in the scandal centered on the disgraced financier, has committed suicide in central Ohio, authorities said.
Jeremy Friehling, 23, was found dead at his apartment of a self-inflicted gunshot wound Thursday in Columbus, where he was a second-year student at Ohio State’s medical school, police there said.
There was no indication that the Madoff investment scandal had anything to do with the suicide, Franklin County Coroner Jan Gorniak said. She said Friehling left a note that just said that he was sorry.
Police detective Jay Fulton confirmed Sunday that Friehling left a note but would not give details about its contents.
The Friehling family declined to comment and “asks that their privacy be respected at this difficult time,” Andrew Lankler, an attorney for Friehling’s father, said Sunday.
Bernard Madoff was arrested in 2008 and later admitted that his investment business was a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme. He was sentenced to 150 years in prison. Madoff’s son, Mark Madoff, committed suicide in December 2010, hanging himself in his New York City apartment.
Friehling’s father, David, of New City, N.Y., pleaded guilty in 2009 to securities fraud charges. Madoff’s accountant for nearly two decades, he quickly came under scrutiny after the financier’s spectacular scam came to light. Federal prosecutors said he turned a blind eye to Madoff’s cooked books.
David Friehling said he failed to do his job to verify Madoff’s financial records but insisted that he didn’t know Madoff was ripping off investors. He noted that he had put his own family’s savings, including college funds for his three children, into Madoff’s investment business.
“In what was the biggest mistake of my life, I put my trust with Bernard Madoff,” Friehling told a judge.
Friehling has yet to be sentenced, as he is continuing to work with prosecutors. He pleaded guilty to charges that carry a potential prison term of up to 114 years in prison, though substantial cooperation can result in significant leniency. He also agreed to forfeit $3.1 million, which represents what he was paid by Madoff for his accounting and tax services, along with what his family withdrew from their Madoff accounts.
Jeremy Friehling was “a friend to many and a brilliant student who gave selflessly of his time to tutor other students,” said a statement from the dean of the Ohio State medical school, Charles Lockwood. He also said Friehling had great promise as a future physician.