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A federal judge rejected Bernard Madoff’s plea for leniency Monday, sentencing the 71-year-old swindler to spend the rest of his life in prison for an “extraordinarily evil” fraud that took a staggering toll on thousands of victims.
U.S. District Judge Denny Chin cited the unprecedented nature of the multibillion-dollar fraud as he sentenced Madoff to the maximum of 150 years in prison, a term comparable only to those given in the past to terrorists, traitors and the most violent criminals. There is no parole in federal prison so Madoff will most likely die there.
“Here, the message must be sent that Mr. 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.
The massive Ponzi scheme run by Madoff since at least the early 1990s demolished the life savings of thousands of people, wrecked charities and shook confidence in the U.S. financial system.
The actual loss so far has been put at $13.2 billion. But the judge said that was a conservative estimate and noted that even Madoff told his sons in December it was a $50 billion fraud.
The sentence reflected a growing tendency over the last decade to give white-collar criminals lengthy prison terms — although a handful of cases have received even longer terms. The outcome prompted scattered applause and whoops from a group of burned former clients in a packed Manhattan courtroom.
The judge noted that not one of the more than 100 letters he received supported Madoff or described any good deeds he had done.