(Update: Adds courtroom quotes from Madoff, judge, lawyers and victims.)
And with that, one of the greatest con-artists in American-financial history exited, stage right, to likely spend the rest of his days in prison.
On Monday morning, in front of a packed courtroom and with the rest of the financial world watching, U.S. District Court Judge Denny Chin sentenced financial swindler Bernard Madoff to 150 years in prison. The morning's hearing was rife with
. Applause reportedly rang out immediately after the sentence was read.
"I cannot offer any excuse for my behavior," Madoff was reported to have said in court. "I made a terrible mistake."
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Federal prosecutors had requested the maximum 150-year term. Madoff's attorney, Ira Sorkin, said his client deserved a much more lenient 12-year sentence for, in part, cooperating with authorities and citing Madoff's limited life expectancy. The judge disagreed with that sentiment this morning, reportedly saying that his arguments were less than compelling and that Madoff did not say all that he knew. Judge Chin also took note of the fact that Madoff continued to pay himself handsomely throughout.
"A message must be sent," Judge Chin was reported to have said.
Back in March, Madoff, 71, pleaded guilty to multiple felony counts after creating the largest ponzi scheme in financial history. Through an investment advisory firm, Madoff claimed to have racked up billions in returns for investors for years that, in truth, turned out to be a figment. Instead, for years he used money from new investors to pay off old investors. When the fraud was finally revealed, the money manager crushed the financial lives of individuals, families, financial firms and charities around the globe. A few of Madoff's victims addressed him in court this morning just before the sentencing.
"He stole from the rich. He stole from the poor. He stole from the in between. He had no values," said Tom Fitzmaurice, one of the victims, according to reports. "He cheated his victims out of their money so he and his wife Ruth could live a life of luxury beyond belief."
The judge also noted that not one letter of support for Madoff came to the court before his sentencing. Madoff's family was not in the courtroom either. At one point, Madoff reportedly turned to his victims and apologized to them directly. "I am sorry," he said. "I know that doesn't help you."
Though investigators are still surveying the carnage, a court trustee has already noted 1,341 investors hurt by Madoff's investment house, with losses adding up to more than $13 billion.
When the fraud first came to light, early reports had Madoff bilking investors out of $65 billion.
At the end of last week, Madoff was ordered to forfeit $170 billion in assets, essentially stripping him of nearly everything in his possession. His wife, Ruth, will keep $2.5 million, but agreed to give up her claim to assets worth more than $80 million.
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