Law & the Courts

Ponzi Scheme Mastermind Bernie Madoff Dies in Prison

Bernie Madoff, the financier who masterminded the largest Ponzi scheme in history, died in federal prison on Wednesday at age 82.

Madoff died of natural causes unrelated to coronavirus, a spokesperson for the Federal Medical Center in Butner, N.C., told reporters. Lawyers for Madoff had attempted to have him transferred out of prison last year because of the pandemic, but the request was denied.

Madoff headed the Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities firm, and presented the firm to customers as being extraordinarily successful. However, Madoff admitted to defrauding global investors of billions of dollars, after his Ponzi scheme was discovered following the Great Recession in 2008.

Clients were defrauded of up to $65 billion, and many investors and charities lost all their savings following the revelations.

‘Psychopath’ — it’s too nice a word for him,” author and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel said at the time. Wiesel’s charity lost $15.2 million, and he and his wife lost their life savings as a result of the scheme.

“He stole from the rich. He stole from the poor. He stole from the in between. He had no values,” former investor Tom Fitzmaurice said at Madoff’s sentencing. “He cheated his victims out of their money so he and his wife… could live a life of luxury beyond belief.”

Madoff received a sentence of 150 years in prison in June 2009, after pleading guilty to 11 federal felonies.

“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 at 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.”

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Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.


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