He stole from the rich, from the poor and from plenty of others in-between. Bernie Madoff, the most notorious Ponzi schemer in history, has died in federal prison, according to reports.
“Bernie Madoff is dead. There is not a single human being on this earth who will shed a tear,” columnist Joe Nocera tweeted Wednesday morning.
Madoff, 82, was serving a 150-year sentence without parole at a North Carolina penitentiary for defrauding thousands of people of billions of dollars in the largest Ponzi scheme ever prosecuted.
The Associated Press said a source with direct knowledge of the matter confirmed the former Manhattan mogul's death, apparently from natural causes, at the Butner Federal Correctional Complex, near Raleigh.
A federal judge denied a bid for Madoff’s freedom amid the coronavirus pandemic last year. His lawyers had cited what they said was end-stage renal disease and other health issues.
Born in 1938 in a lower-middle-class Jewish family in Queens, Madoff went on to launch Nasdaq, the first electronic stock exchange.
He became a financier to the stars – including famed actors, directors and professional athletes – and was known for having a Midas touch that withstood the swells and dips of the market.
It all turned when federal investigators unraveled a pyramid of bogus wealth arranged by paying previous investors with cash from new ones. Madoff was the mastermind behind it, they said.
Once widely revered, Madoff became so despised that he wore a bulletproof vest to court while remaining under house arrest in his $7 million Manhattan condo.
Saying that he was “deeply sorry and ashamed,” Madoff admitted in 2009 that his investment advisory firm destroyed personal fortunes along with charities and foundations.
U.S. District Judge Denny Chin disregarded the fact that Madoff took the plea instead of going to trial when he sentenced Madoff to the maximum 150 years.
It was more than a lifetime term because there’s no parole in the federal prison system.
The judge called Madoff’s behavior “extraordinarily evil.”
“This kind of irresponsible manipulation of the system is not merely a bloodless financial crime that takes place just on paper,” Chin said at the time.
Rather, he said, it was one that “takes a staggering human toll.”
Another judge issued a $171 billion forfeiture order that seized all of Madoff’s real estate, investments and more.
That included $80 million in assets that his wife, Ruth, claimed as hers.
One of Madoff’s sons, Mark, died by suicide in 2010 on the second anniversary of his father’s arrest. The other, Andrew, died of cancer that same year. Madoff's brother, Peter, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2012 for his role in the schemes.
A court-appointed trustee reportedly has recovered more than $13 billion of the estimated $17.5 billion lost by investors.
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