- The Washington Times - Monday, June 29, 2009

Bernard Madoff, the 71-year-old former Nasdaq chairman who perpetrated the largest Ponzi scheme in Wall Street history, received the maximum sentence of 150 years in federal prison Monday.

Madoff’s $65 billion fraudulent scheme wiped out the assets of thousands of investors around the world. His victims ranged from movie mogul Steven Spielberg and many Palm Beach millionaires to countless numbers of small investors whose lifetime retirement savings were funneled into his operations through so-called “feeder funds,” frequently unbeknown to them.

“I don’t ask for any forgiveness,” Madoff told U.S. District Judge Denny Chin before sentencing.

Prosecutors had requested the maximum 150-year prison term suggested by federal guidelines. Mr. Madoff’s lawyer, Ira Sorkin, had sought a term of 12 years.

“The shear scale of the Madoff fraud calls for severe punishment,” prosecutors said in court filings prior to sentencing.

“The scope, duration and nature of Madoff’s crimes render him exceptionally deserving of the maximum punishment allowed by law,” assistant U.S. attorneys wrote in a June 26 letter to Judge Chin.

After Judge Chin imposed the sentence, the courtroom erupted in applause.

Madoff pleaded guilty in March to 11 felony counts, including securities fraud, investment adviser fraud, multiple counts of money laundering, wire fraud, false filings and false statements. He has been residing in a federal jail since his guilty plea in March.

Just weeks before Madoff admitted the massive fraud late last year, his customers had been told they had as much as $65 billion in the collective investment accounts that he managed. So far, prosecutors have said they have identified more than 1,300 investors who have lost more than $13 billion from Madoff’s fraudulent Ponzi scheme. That tally is expected to rise significantly.

In all, over the years, $170 billion flowed through the bank account that Madoff used to perpetrate his scheme, government investigators have said.

For years, Madoff had the reputation of a money manager with the Midas touch. Regardless of the performance of the economy or the stock market, his clients could count on double-digit annual returns.

The investigators looking into Madoff’s operations said the scheme dates back at least to the early 1980s. In March, Madoff said the scheme began during the 1990s.

Investigators said that Madoff never made any of the investments he claimed. Instead, in a classic Ponzi operation, Madoff acknowledged using the inflow from longtime customers and new investors to finance the withdrawals of others.

Countless millions of dollars were used to finance Madoff’s luxurious lifestyle, which included an $11 million estate in Palm Beach, Fla.; a $7 million Manhattan apartment; a $4 million home in Montauk, N.Y.; a $2.2 million boat; and $1 million memberships at high-end country clubs.

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