On this day: Bernie Madoff sentenced

June 29 2009: 150 years behind bars


It was described as the fraud of the century, the worst financial crime of the recession, and much, much more. The multi-billion dollar fraud scheme the financier landed Bernie Madoff a 150 year sentence; his legal team had asked for just 12.

Three months earlier, Madoff pleaded guilty to a stream of offences including money laundering and perjury which amounted to almost $50 billion of investment fraud. Accounts by Madoff victims – many who had lost their life savings – were read out in court before the sentencing.

For his victims, it was in many cases too little, too late. More than 13,000 people lost money through the collapse of his firm Madoff Securities, including Jewish organisations from Hadassah and Yeshiva University to the American Committee for Shaare Zedek Medical Centre in Jerusalem.

The Holocaust survivor and human rights campaigner Elie Wiesel lost £15 million for his foundation and he and his wife lost their life savings. Mr Wiesel later described the fraudster as a "thief, scoundrel, criminal".

Other high-profile victims who invested in the Bernard L Madoff Securities company were director Steven Spielberg and actress Zsa Zsa Gabor. Only a fraction of what the Madoff victims lost has been recovered.

Madoff is still in jail. In December 2010, two years after Madoff turned himself in, his son Mark was found to have committed suicide. In May it was reported that HBO were planning to document the Madoff story on film, with Robert de Niro playing the fraudster.

What the JC said: They called him "Uncle Bernie" or "The Jewish T-Bill", after US Treasury Bills, the dullest and most secure investment. With his silver hair, Savile Row suits and avuncular manner, Bernard Madoff radiated solidity, security and honesty. He was a bastion of Wall Street, where he ran an enormously successful, legitimate, share-trading operation as well as his fraudulent investment scheme. He was a fixture on the Jewish charity circuit, confidant of multi-millionaires, equally at home in the salons of Manhattan's Upper East Side, the luxurious Palm Beach Country Club and the French Riviera. It was all, as Madoff himself eventually confessed, "One big lie".

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    Last updated: 9:32am, June 29 2011