Bernie Madoff, mastermind of the Ponzi scheme in the US, which ripped off tens of thousands of clients of an estimated $65 billion, died today
Bernie Madoff, masterminded a cruel Ponzi scheme, which ripped off tens of thousands of clients including Hollywood stars and charities.
It is thought he stole as much as $65 billion before he was reported to authorities by his two sons, who were not part of the scam.
His death was announced today by the Bureau of Prisons.
He had been held at a federal prison in Butner, North Carolina, after being sentenced in June 2009 to a 150-year term for engineering the massive fraud.
Madoff’s thousands of victims, large and small, included individuals, charities, pension funds and hedge funds.
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.
“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.
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 did not know he was running his fraud on a different floor. Only a trusted few did.
Madoff ripped off tens of thousands of victims including charities
In a typical Ponzi scheme, money from newer investors is used to pay sums owed to earlier investors.
Madoff said his fraud began in the early 1990s, but prosecutors and many victims believe it started earlier.
The money helped Madoff and his wife, Ruth, enjoy luxuries such as a Manhattan penthouse, a French villa, and expensive cars and yachts, with a combined net worth of about $825 million.
“I believed when I started this problem, this crime, that it would be something I would be able to work my way out of, but that became impossible,” Madoff told the court.
“As hard as I tried, the deeper I dug myself into a hole.”
Madoff also addressed victims in attendance, saying, “I am sorry. I know that doesn’t help you.”
He had been suffering from chronic kidney failure and several other medical ailments.