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Accused swindler Bernard Madoff exits the Manhattan federal court house in New York
Madoff was convicted in June 2009Image: Brendan McDermid/REUTERS

Ponzi scheme king Bernie Madoff dies in prison

April 14, 2021

Bernie Madoff, the man behind the biggest Ponzi scheme in history, has died in prison at the age of 82. Madoff ran a ripoff pyramid scheme that conned thousands of people around the world.


The disgraced financier Bernie Madoff, who was convicted for running a Ponzi scheme that was unprecedented in its scale, died in prison at the age of 82, the US Federal Bureau of Prisons announced on Wednesday.

As the mastermind of the epic swindle, which earned him billions of dollars and 150 years behind bars, Madoff had been denied permission to die at home.

The onetime Wall Street kingpin had been suffering from chronic kidney failure, although the precise cause of death was not immediately confirmed.

Madoff's sons helped arrest him

Madoff was jailed in 2009 for overseeing a scam that hit many thousands of clients, whose statements told them that their investments were worth almost $65 billion in total.

In reality, the venture held only a fraction of that amount.

Madoff was said to have hired numerous employees who had "little or no prior pertinent training or experience in the securities industry."

The scam came to light only at the time of the 2008 financial crisis, as worried investors clamored to withdraw savings from financial institutions. He confessed the situation to his sons, who turned him in to authorities.

"The size and scope of Mr. Madoff's fraud are unprecedented," prosecutors said at the time, claiming that the scheme had been in operation since "at least" the 1980s.

Madoff was charged with 11 counts for crimes committed over two decades, including securities fraud, mail fraud, money laundering, perjury and false filing.

Money guru for US celebrities

His clients included retirees, as well as celebrities such as the director Steven Spielberg and actor Kevin Bacon. The scheme meant some saw their life savings wiped out and destroyed charities and foundations that had placed their faith in Madoff, who presented himself as a self-made financial guru.

The sentencing judge described the crimes as "extraordinarily evil."

Since Madoff's sentencing, court-appointed trustees have clawed back an estimated $14 billion (€11.7 billion) of the estimated $17.5 billion that investors had put into the business.

rc/dj (APF, AP, Reuters)

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