Convicted swindler Bernard Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison Monday for fraud so extensive that the judge said he needed to send a symbolic message to those who might imitate his fraud and to victims who need relief.
Applause broke out in the crowded Manhattan courtroom after U.S. District Judge Denny Chin issued the maximum sentence to the 71-year-old defendant, who said he sought no forgiveness and knew he must live “with this pain, this torment, for the rest of my life.”
Chin rejected a request by Madoff’s lawyer for leniency and said he disagreed that victims of the fraud were seeking mob vengeance.
“Here the message must be sent that Mr. Madoff’s crimes were extraordinarily evil and that this kind of manipulation of the system is not just a bloodless crime that takes place on paper, but one instead that takes a staggering toll,” Chin said.
The judge said the estimate that Madoff has cost his victims more than $13 billion was conservative because it did not include money from feeder funds.
“Objectively speaking, the fraud here was staggering,” he said.
Before Chin announced the sentence, Madoff, wearing a dark suit, white shirt and a tie, sat and listened as emotional witnesses described how he spoiled their security.
The jailed Madoff already has taken a severe financial hit: Last week, a judge issued a preliminary $171 billion 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 terms require the Madoffs to sell a $7 million Manhattan apartment where Ruth Madoff still lives. An $11 million estate in Palm Beach, Fla., a $4 million home in Montauk and a $2.2 million boat will be put on the market as well.
Before Madoff became a symbol of Wall Street greed, he had earned a reputation as a trusted money manager with a Midas touch. Even as the market fluctuated, clients of his secretive investment advisory business — from Florida retirees to celebrities such as Steven Spielberg, actor Kevin Bacon and Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax — for decades enjoyed steady double-digit returns.