Bernie Madoff, who pleaded guilty to orchestrating the largest ponzi scheme in history, has died in federal prison, sources tell The Associated Press.
Madoff, once a celebrated and beloved figure in financial circles, admitted to swindling thousands of clients out of billions of dollars in investments over decades. He fell from grace after his scheme unraveled shortly after the 2008 recession, confessing to his sons that his business was a massive Ponzi scheme.
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 as head of the Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities firm, including famed film director Steven Spielberg, actor Kevin Bacon, Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax, and the Wilpon family, the former owners of the New York Mets.
But his investment advisory business was exposed in 2008 as a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme that wiped out people’s 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."
"When I began the Ponzi scheme I believed it would end shortly and I would be able to extricate myself and my clients from this scheme," Madoff said his plea hearing. "However, this proved difficult, and ultimately impossible, and as the years went by I realized that my arrest and this day would eventually come."
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 was given the maximum sentence of 150 years in prison by federal judge Denny Chin, who said his crime showed "extraordinary evil" and "took a staggering human toll." The courtroom erupted in applause when Chin read the verdict.
A court-appointed trustee has recovered more than $13 billion of an estimated $17.5 billion that investors put into Madoff’s business. At the time of his arrest, fake account statements were telling clients they had holdings worth $60 billion.
Attorneys for Madoff attempted to get him out of prison last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, saying he suffered from end-stage renal disease and other chronic medical conditions.
"I've served 11 years already," Madoff told the Washington Post. "And, quite frankly, I've suffered through it."
Madoff's request was denied.
Both of Madoff’s sons have died, Andrew from cancer at age 48 and Mark from suicide at age 46 in 2010. Madoff is survived by his wife, Ruth.
Madoff apparently died from natural causes at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina, the source told the AP on the condition of anonymity. He was 82.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.