07/06/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

How Does Ruth Madoff Sleep at Night?

What was she thinking?

If you've ever wondered how the well-heeled wife of a notorious crook like Bernie Madoff moves on with her life, here's an insight from Bernadette Noe, a woman who's been there: "I've opened another chapter, which hasn't been all bad." Three years ago, Noe's husband Tom, a prominent GOP fundraiser from Ohio, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for money laundering in connection with the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign and embezzling from an Ohio investment fund. In an exclusive sit-down with Marie Claire, Bernadette Noe, who was once so close to former President George W. Bush that she even scored a coveted nickname from him -- "Bernie" -- dishes on the anger, shame and resignation that comes with marriage to a convicted white collar felon. "It was horrible," she says. "I could have crawled into a hole or jumped off my balcony."

But the most surprising revelation? The lifestyle has its perks. Noe lives in the couple's 5,000 square foot oceanfront mansion in Key Largo, replete with pool grotto and waterfall (Florida homestead laws prevent creditors from seizing the estate, despite more than $2 million owed in legal fees). "The great thing about living here is that everybody's got a history, a story, and nobody cares."

The piece in Marie Claire, "When White Collar Hubbies Go to Jail" by Gretchen Voss, also features exclusive interviews with Amy Shelton, wife of Kirk Shelton, the former vice chairman of Cendant who was convicted of inflating the company's revenues by $500 million. Shelton was sentenced to 10 years in prison. His wife relies on neighbors and friends to pay for grocery and utility bills. "You worry about the way you spend money because you feel like you're being judged. I find it humiliating to have to rely on people."

Marie Claire also spotlights Karen Weinreb, who was exiled from the tony enclave of Bedford, NY -- home of billionaires Carl Icahn, George Soros and Nelson Peltz -- after her husband, a Bloomberg salesman, was convicted of fraud. "I wasn't one of them anymore," Weinreb tells Marie Claire. "I realized these women need their charity to be at arm's length. I was too close to home. I was a 'there but for the grace of God go I' story."