Madoff jailed for 150 years, ten more to be charged(update)


New York: In one of the highest-profile financial fraud cases in history, a judge firmly sided with Bernard Madoff's thousands of victims when he gave the disgraced financier a sentence long enough for him to die in prison.

But the probe does not end there.

A person familiar with the investigation said 10 more people would face federal charges by the time the probe is completed.

So far, only Madoff and an accountant accused of failing to make basic auditing checks have been criminally charged.

The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing, wouldn't detail potential charges or say whether the 10 would include Madoff's family or former employees.

In court Monday, the 71-year-old Madoff admitted it was impossible for him to excuse deeds that U.S. District Judge Denny Chin noted had cost investors $13.2 billion by conservative estimates and $50 billion by the estimate Madoff gave his sons in December.

"I don't ask any forgiveness," Madoff told Chin.

"Although I may not have intended harm, I did a great deal of harm."

Later, he turned around to look at the victims lining the first row of the gallery. "I will turn and face you," he said mechanically.

"I'm sorry. I know that doesn't help you." The judge then took his turn.

"This is not just a matter of money," Chin said.

"The breach of trust was massive. Investors - individuals, charities, pension funds, institutional clients - were repeatedly lied to, as they were told their monies would be invested in stocks when they were not."

Madoff received the maximum term for the massive Ponzi scheme run at least since the early 1990s that demolished the life savings of thousands of people, wrecked charities and shook confidence in the U.S. financial system.

Chin dismissed Madoff's pleas for leniency, noting that Madoff made substantial loans to family members, including moving $15 million of his company's money into his wife's personal accounts as it became clear that the scheme was unraveling.

"I simply do not get the sense that Mr. Madoff has done all that he could or told all that he knows," Chin said.

"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.

He noted the pain of more than 100 investors - several of whom whooped and cheered in court when he was sentenced - who had urged Madoff be sent to prison for life.

Madoff, looking thinner than his last court appearance in March, gave no noticeable reaction when the sentence was announced.

When nine victims described their pain earlier, Madoff kept his eyes focused ahead, his head slightly bowed.

Some openly wept or raised their voices, labeling Madoff a "monster," "a true beast," a "psychopath" and an "evil low-life."

Dominic Ambrosino, a retired jail guard, said losing his life savings cost him his freedom and he got satisfaction from knowing Madoff will be confined to prison "in much the same way he imprisoned us as well as others."

He added: "In a sense, I would like someone in the court today to tell me how long is my sentence."

Tom Fitzmaurice said Madoff left him financially ruined as he "cheated his victims out of their money so that he and his wife, Ruth, and their two sons could live a life of luxury beyond belief. This life is normally reserved for royalty, not for common thieves."

Carla Hirschhorn said the world she had built with her husband "crumbled beneath us" when Madoff revealed his fraud to his sons and was arrested the following December morning by FBI agents.

She said that since that day, "life has been a living hell. It feels like a nightmare that we can't wake from."

Sheryl Weinstein, a certified accountant, said Madoff was able to carry out his fraud because he seemed like a normal human being. "But underneath the facade is a true beast," she said.

"He should not be given the opportunity to blend so seamlessly into our society again." When asked by the judge whether he had anything to say, Madoff slowly stood, leaned forward on the defense table and spoke in a monotone for about 10 minutes.

At various times, he referred to his monumental fraud as a "problem," "an error of judgment" and "a tragic mistake."

He claimed he and his wife were tormented, saying she "cries herself to sleep every night, knowing all the pain and suffering I have caused."

He said: "I live in a tormented state now knowing of all the pain and suffering that I have created. I have left a legacy of shame, as some of my victims have pointed out, to my family and my grandchildren.

That's something I will live with for the rest of my life."

His immediate family did not attend the sentencing. But Ruth Madoff - often a target of victims' scorn since her husband's arrest - broke her silence afterward by issuing a statement through her lawyer. She said she, too, had been misled.

"I am embarrassed and ashamed," she said.

"Like everyone else, I feel betrayed and confused. The man who committed this horrible fraud is not the man whom I have known for all these years."

Prosecutor Lisa Baroni said Madoff deserved a life sentence because he "stole ruthlessly and without remorse."

Madoff, who has been jailed since March, already has taken a severe financial hit: Last week, a judge issued a preliminary $171 billion forfeiture order stripping Madoff of all his personal property, including real estate, investments and $80 million in assets his wife had claimed were hers.

The order left her with $2.5 million that couldn't be tied to the fraud. - AP

Earlier report

NEW YORK: Two weeks after Norma Hill and her husband invested their life savings with Bernard Madoff, she came to the then-trusted money manager with news her spouse suddenly died.

Madoff "put his arm around my shoulder and assured me my money was safe and I should not worry," she wrote.

In the end, the widow lost everything.

U.S. District Judge Denny Chin cited Hill's letter as one of the most stirring examples of an "extraordinarily evil" fraud, one worthy of a staggering sentence for Madoff: 150 years behind bars.

The sentence went far beyond the 12 years suggested by Madoff's lawyers and virtually guaranteed that, at age 71, the financier-turned-felon would die in prison.

Chin said the term was meant to symbolically fit the crime - a multibillion-dollar fraud that's been called the largest in history.

"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.

The sentence capped a 90-minute hearing in an ornate courtroom in Manhattan that turned into a tense showdown between a group of angry, tearful victims and Madoff, who sat silently at a defense table before apologizing with a mechanical calm.

"I will turn and face you," he said.

"I'm sorry. I know that doesn't help you."

More drama followed the sentencing when Madoff's wife Ruth, often a target of victims' scorn since her husband's arrest, broke her silence by issuing a statement through her lawyer.

She said she, too, had been misled.

"I am embarrassed and ashamed," she said.

"Like everyone else, I feel betrayed and confused."

It was unclear where Madoff, who was returned to a downtown jail, will end up spending time.

Chin said he would recommend a facility in the Northeast, but explained that it was up to federal prison officials determine an exact location and level of security.

The sentencing concluded a stunning fall from grace for Madoff. Clients of the former Nasdaq chairman - from Florida retirees to celebrities such as Steven Spielberg, actor Kevin Bacon and Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax - for decades flocked to him seeking investment returns that defied market fluctuations.

But late last year, Madoff made a dramatic confession: Authorities say he pulled his sons aside and told them of a massive pyramid scheme.

Madoff pleaded guilty in March to securities fraud and other charges, saying he was "deeply sorry and ashamed."

He insisted that he acted alone, describing a separate wholesale stock-trading firm run by his sons and brother as honest and legitimate.

Aside from an accountant accused of cooking Madoff's books, no one else has been criminally charged.

But the family, including his wife, and brokerage firms who recruited investors have come under intense scrutiny by the FBI, regulators and a court-appointed trustee overseeing the liquidation of Madoff's assets.

The trustee and prosecutors have sought to go after assets to compensate thousands of victims who have filed claims against Madoff.

How much is available to pay them remains unknown, though it's expected to be only a fraction of the Astronomical losses associated with the fraud.

The $171 billion forfeiture figure used by prosecutors merely mirrors the amount they estimate that, over decades, "flowed into the principal account to perpetrate the Ponzi scheme."

The statements sent to investors showing their accounts were worth as much as $65 billion were fiction.

The investigation has found that in reality, Madoff never made any investments, instead using the money from new investors to pay returns to existing clients - and to finance a lavish lifestyle for his family.

The actual loss so far has been put at $13.2 billion. But the judge said that was a conservative estimate and noted that even Madoff told his sons in December it was a $50 billion fraud.

Chin announced the sentence with Madoff standing at the defense table, wearing a dark suit, white shirt and a tie, and looking thinner than his last court appearance in March, when he was first jailed.

He gave no noticeable reaction when the sentence was announced.

He also showed no emotion though he looked down earlier in the hearing as he listened to nine victims spend nearly an hour labeling him a "monster," "a true beast" and an "evil low-life."

"Life has been a living hell. It feels like the nightmare we can't wake from," said Carla Hirshhorn.

"He stole from the rich. He stole from the poor. He stole from the in between. He had no values," said Tom Fitzmaurice.

"He cheated his victims out of their money so he and his wife Ruth could live a life of luxury beyond belief."

Sheryl Weinstein, a certified accountant, said Madoff was effective because he seemed normal.

"But underneath the facade is a true beast," she said.

"He should not be given the opportunity to blend so seamlessly into our society again."

When asked by the judge whether he had anything to say, Madoff slowly stood, leaned forward on the defense table and spoke in a monotone for about 10 minutes.

At various times, he referred to his historic fraud as a "problem," "an error of judgment" and "a tragic mistake."

He claimed he and his wife were tormented, saying she "cries herself to sleep every night, knowing all the pain and suffering I have caused," he said.

"That's something I live with, as well."

The jailed Madoff had already taken a severe financial hit: Last week, a judge issued a preliminary $171 billion forfeiture order stripping Madoff of all his personal property, including real estate, investments, and $80 million in assets his wife Ruth had claimed were hers.

The order left her with $2.5 million.

The terms require the Madoffs to sell a $7 million Manhattan apartment where Ruth Madoff still lives.

An $11 million estate in Palm Beach, Florida, a $4 million home in Montauk, New York, and a $2.2 million boat will be put on the market as well. - AP

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