Bernie Madoff
Bernie Madoff

NEW YORK: Bernie Madoff, the financier who pleaded guilty to orchestrating the largest Ponzi scheme in history, died in jail in the US state of North Carolina on Wednesday. He was 82.

Madoff’s death came at Federal Medical Center in Butner, apparently from natural causes.

Last year, Madoff’s lawyers filed court papers to try to get the 82-year-old released from prison amid the Covid-19 pandemic, saying he was suffering from end-stage renal disease and other chronic medical conditions. The request was denied.

Madoff admitted swindling thousands of clients out of billions of dollars in investments over decades.

A court-appointed trustee has recovered more than $13 billion of an estimated $17.5bn that investors put into Madoff’s business. At the time of his arrest, fake account statements were telling clients they had holdings worth $60bn.

For decades, Madoff enjoyed an image as a self-made financial guru whose Midas 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 famed 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 multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme that wiped out fortunes and ruined charities and foundations. He became so hated he had to wear a bulletproof vest to court.

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.

“He stole from the rich. He stole from the poor. He stole from the in between. He had no values,” former investor Tom Fitzmaurice told the judge at the sentencing. “He cheated his victims out of their money so he and his wife ... could live a life of luxury beyond belief.”

Judge Denny Chin showed no mercy, sentencing Madoff to the maximum 150 years in prison.

Both of Madoff’s sons have died, Andrew from cancer at age 48 and Mark from suicide at age 46 in 2010. Madoff’s wife, Ruth, is still living.

Published in Dawn, April 15th, 2021

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