Bernie Madoff, who was convicted of running the largest known Ponzi scheme in history, died on Wednesday in federal prison where he was serving a 150-year sentence, the Bureau of Prisons said. He was 82.
Madoff, who sufffered from chronic kidney failure and several other medical ailments, died at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina, apparently from natural causes, a source told The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.
He was imprisoned after being sentenced in June 2009 for engineering a fraud estimated as high as $64.8 billion.
Last year, Madoff's lawyers filed court papers to try to get him released from prison in the COVID-19 pandemic, saying he had suffered 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.
Among those he betrayed were the actors Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick and John Malkovich; baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax; and a charity associated with director Steven Spielberg.
Owners of the New York Mets, longtime Madoff clients, struggled for years to field a good baseball team because of losses they suffered.
"We thought he was God. We trusted everything in his hands," Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, whose foundation lost $15.2 million, said in 2009.
Some victims lost everything. Many came from the Jewish community, where Madoff had been a major philanthropist.
Madoff's crimes were revealed to authorities in 2008 by his two sons, who were not part of the scheme.
The fraud exposed holes at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which through incompetence or neglect botched a half-dozen examinations.
"There were several times that I met with the SEC and thought, 'They got me,'" Madoff told lawyers in a prison interview, according to ABC News.
Madoff had been the largest market-maker on the Nasdaq, once serving as its non-executive chairman.
His brokerage firm was located in a Midtown Manhattan tower known as the Lipstick Building.
Employees there said they felt like part of Madoff's family. They did not know he was running his fraud on a different floor. Only a trusted few did.
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 Madoff's arrest, fake account statements were telling clients they had holdings worth $60 billion.
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.”
U.S. District 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.
This report contains material from Reuters and The Associated Press.
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