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Bernie Madoff, schemer of mega Ponzi scam dies at 82

By People Daily
Thursday, April 15th, 2021
Bernie Madoff. Photo/Courtesy
In summary
    • Madoff pleaded guilty in March 2009 to securities fraud and other charges, saying he was “deeply sorry and ashamed.”
    • After several months living under house arrest at his $7 million Manhattan penthouse apartment, he was led off to jail in handcuffs to scattered applause from angry investors in the courtroom.

Bernie Madoff, the mastermind behind the worst financial scam in history, died in jail at age 82 on Wednesday, US prison officials said.

Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison in 2009 for running a pyramid-style scheme that defrauded tens of thousands of people around the world. The scheme was worth around $63 billion.

Madoff’s death at the Federal Medical Centre in Butner, North Carolina, was confirmed by his lawyer and the Bureau of Prisons.

“We can confirmMadoff passed away on April 14, 2021, at the Federal Medical Centre Butner, North Carolina,” an official with the federal Bureau of Prisons told AFP in an email.

The statement said the cause of death needed to be determined by a medical examiner. In February 2020, Madoff’s lawyer said the disgraced Wall Street financier was terminally ill and wanted to leave prison to die.

Terminal nature

Lawyer Brandon Sample said Madoff was suffering from “terminal kidney disease, among other serious medical conditions”.

“The Bureau of Prisons concluded in September 2019 that Madoff has less than 18 months to live because of the terminal nature of his kidney failure,” Sample wrote.

“Although the crimes Madoff was convicted of have come to define who he was — he was also a father and a husband. He was soft spoken and an intellectual. Bernie was by no means perfect. But no man is,” Sample said. 

Last year, Madoff’s lawyers unsuccessfully asked a court to release him from prison during the coronavirus pandemic, saying he suffered from end-stage renal disease and other chronic medical conditions. 

The Washington Post reported then that Madoff needed a wheelchair and 24-hour care.

He asked for compassionate release so he could mend fences with his grandchildren and die at home but the request was rejected by the prisons bureau.

“You know, there hasn’t been a day in prison that I haven’t felt the guilt for the pain I caused on the victims and for my family,” he said.

For decades, Madoff enjoyed an image as a self-made financial guru whose touch defied market fluctuations.

A former chairman of the Nasdaq stock market, he attracted a devoted legion of investment clients — from Florida retirees to celebrities such as film director Steven Spielberg, actor Kevin Bacon and Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax.

But his investment advisory business was exposed in 2008 as a Ponzi scheme that wiped out people’s fortunes and ruined charities. He became so hated he wore a bulletproof vest to court.

A pyramid, or Ponzi, scheme is a form of fraud in which returns on investments are generated only by bringing in fresh investments from new victims. Cash from new clients is used to pay existing clients.

Madoff’s fraud was revealed during the financial crisis in 2008 when he was unable to satisfy growing client demands to withdraw their investments, and many lost their savings or were unable to retire.

Madoff never invested a single cent of the money the scheme’s clients trusted him with, instead using money from new investors to pay older ones.

Financial crime

US authorities have seized about $US4 billion related to Madoff and aim to return it to tens of thousands of his victims around the world.

The Madoff Victim Fund will disburse payments to more than 30,000 people around the world who were cheated out of their investments by the crooked financier between the 1970s and 2000s, the US Justice Department has said.

US District Judge Denny Chin sentenced Madoff to the maximum possible term.

“Here, the message must be sent that Madoff’s crimes were extraordinarily evil and that this kind of irresponsible manipulation of the system is not merely a bloodless financial crime that takes place just on paper, but it is instead ... one that takes a staggering human toll,” Chin said.

A judge issued a forfeiture order stripping Madoff of all his personal property, including real estate, investments, and $80 million in assets his wife, Ruth, had claimed were hers. 

The order left her with $2.5 million. The scandal also exacted a personal toll on the family: One of his sons, Mark, killed himself on the second anniversary of his father’s arrest in 2010.

Madoff’s brother, Peter, who helped run the business, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2012, despite claims he was in the dark about his brother’s misdeeds. Madoff’s other son, Andrew, died from cancer at age 48. Ruth is still living. —AFP

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