Fraudster Bernie Madoff has been sentenced to 150 years in prison by a court in New York, the maximum the judge could impose.
Several hundred spectators arrived at federal court in New York to witness 71-year-old Madoff’s sentencing for a multi-billion dollar fraud scheme.
Madoff’s legal team had previously requested a 12-year sentence.
He pleaded guilty in March to a stream of offences including fraud, money laundering and perjury which amounted to almost $50 billion of investment fraud.
In a preliminary hearing on Friday, District Judge Denny Chin ordered Madoff to forfeit $171 billion in assets, while his wife Ruth had to forfeit more than $80m in net worth she claimed was hers.
More than 13,000 people lost money through the collapse of his firm Madoff Securities, including several celebrities like actor Zsa Zsa Gabor and film director Steven Spielberg.
More than 100 people wrote to Judge Chin describing how they had lost their life savings as a result of Madoff’s fraud.
Victim impact statements were read out in court before the sentence.
Donald Ambrosino, a retired New York City corrections officer said: "How could someone do this to us? We worked honestly and so hard.”
Maureen Ebel, another of the fraudster's victims told the court: “I have lost all of my life’s hard-earned savings. I have lost the home my husband and I had owned for 25 years because of this theft. I have lost the ability to care for myself in this old age.”
One of Madoff’s victims was William Foxton, a 65-year-old retired British army major, who shot himself in a Southampton park in February after discovering Madoff had cost him his life savings.
Madoff claimed for decades that he delivered top-notch returns from investments.
But the Madoff empire was built on sand and money was simply moved around the world to give the impression of successful trading, and cash from new clients was used to pay off old ones.
Prosecutors are expected to intensify their investigations into the rest of the family in light of today’s sentencing.
Detectives are likely to quiz Madoff's wife, Ruth, and investigate sons Andrew and Mark, who both worked for Madoff, but claimed they had no knowledge of the fraud.