Madoff sentenced to 150 years in prison

June 30th, 2009 by

MSNBC
NEW YORK – Two weeks after Norma Hill and her husband invested their life savings with Bernard Madoff, she came to the then-trusted money manager with news her spouse suddenly died.

Madoff “put his arm around my shoulder and assured me my money was safe and I should not worry,” she wrote.

In the end, the widow lost everything.
U.S. District Judge Denny Chin cited Hill’s letter as one of the most stirring examples of an “extraordinarily evil” fraud, one worthy of a staggering sentence for Madoff: 150 years behind bars.

The sentence went far beyond the 12 years suggested by Madoff’s lawyers and virtually guaranteed that, at age 71, the financier-turned-felon would die while imprisoned. Chin said the term was meant to symbolically fit the crime — a multibillion-dollar fraud that’s been called the largest in history.

“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 sentence capped a 90-minute hearing in an ornate courtroom in Manhattan that turned into a tense showdown between a group of angry, tearful victims and Madoff, who sat silently at a defense table before apologizing with a mechanical calm.

“I will turn and face you,” he said. “I’m sorry. I know that doesn’t help you.”

More drama followed the sentencing when Madoff’s wife Ruth, often a target of victims’ scorn since her husband’s arrest, broke her silence by issuing a statement through her lawyer. She said she, too, had been misled.

“I am embarrassed and ashamed,” she said. “Like everyone else, I feel betrayed and confused.”

It was unclear where Madoff, who was returned to a downtown jail, will end up spending time. Chin said he would recommend a facility in the Northeast, but explained that it was up to federal prison officials determine an exact location and level of security.

The sentencing concluded a stunning fall from grace for Madoff. Clients of the former Nasdaq chairman — from Florida retirees to celebrities such as Steven Spielberg, actor Kevin Bacon and Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax — for decades flocked to him seeking investment returns that defied market fluctuations.

But late last year, Madoff made a dramatic confession: Authorities say he pulled his sons aside and told them of a massive Ponzi scheme.

Madoff pleaded guilty in March to securities fraud and other charges, saying he was “deeply sorry and ashamed.” He insisted that he acted alone, describing a separate wholesale stock-trading firm run by his sons and brother as honest and legitimate.

Aside from an accountant accused of cooking Madoff’s books, no one else has been criminally charged. But the family, including his wife, and brokerage firms who recruited investors have come under intense scrutiny by the FBI, regulators and a court-appointed trustee overseeing the liquidation of Madoff’s assets.

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