Bernie Madoff, the infamous criminal mastermind that defrauded thousands of investors and trumped Wall Street regulators, died on Wednesday. He was 82.
Madoff’s death was due to natural causes at a Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina, which is 15 miles northeast of Durham. His passing was confirmed by the Bureau of Prisons.
Before being sentenced to life in prison, Madoff promoted himself as a self-made millionaire and financial genius. A former chairman of the NASDAQ stock exchange, he attracted a plethora of clients including big name celebrities, sports icons and Hollywood elites to Wall Street, promising a return on their investments that were “too good to be true.” And it was with Madoff funneling a bulk of the funds given to him through his associated businesses.
Federal investigators caught on to Madoff’s fraudulent tactics and was exposed in 2008 for running a Ponzi scheme that depleted people’s fortunes and life savings. The term was introduced after Charles Ponzi was convicted of mail fraud after bilking thousands of people out of $10 million in 1920.
Madoff became so hated he wore a bulletproof vest to court hearings, according to the Associated Press. The fraud committed by the swindling crook remains the largest in Wall Street’s history.
“Over the years, court-appointed trustees laboring to unwind the scheme have recovered more than $14 billion of an estimated $17.5 billion 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,” according to the Associated Press.
Madoff pleaded guilty in March 2009 to securities fraud and other charges, saying he was “deeply sorry and ashamed.”
U.S. District Judge Denny Chin wanted to seek retribution for the people who lost everything and sentenced Madoff to the maximum possible term of 150 years behind bars.
“Here, the message must be sent that Mr. Madoff’s crimes were extraordinarily evil and that this kind of irresponsible manipulation of the system is not merely a bloodless financial crime that takes place just on paper, but it is instead … one that takes a staggering human toll,” Chin said.
Last year, Madoff’s lawyers unsuccessfully asked a court to release him from prison due to the COVID-19 pandemic.