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Crime & Punishment: Madoff Gets 150 Years

Shattered dreams and broken spirits were, in part, vindicated today when a federal judge formally sentenced disgraced financier Bernie Madoff to 150 years in federal prison.

Before Judge Denny Chin of U.S. District Court in New York imposed the sentence, several victims, including former friends of Madoff’’s, told their stories of how the money manager’s $65 billion Ponzi scheme had destroyed their lives. One victim said Madoff’s scam not only ruined her financially, but forced her to turn to food stamps and to scavenging for food in dumpsters. 

Madoff, who was arrested Dec. 11, 2008, orchestrated his money scheme over what investigators now believe is decades by presenting his firm, Bernard Madoff Investment Securities, as a genuine investment advisory business. In actuality, the company served as a front for a Ponzi scheme, with Madoff using money from new investors to make payments to previous ones, thus creating a false sense of legitimacy. Regulators now contend Madoff’s business hadn’t made a trade in at least 13 years. 

Madoff’s roster of clients entailed the who’s who of Hollywood, including director Steven Spielberg, charities, universities, friends, money managers, global firms and even his own sister.

Today, investigators are continuing to look for others who may have collaborated with Madoff. To that end, on June 23, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed civil fraud charges against Cohmad Securities, its chairman, Maurice Sonny Cohn, his daughter, chief operating officer Marcia Cohn, and vice president and broker Robert Jaffe. A second SEC lawsuit named investment adviser Stanley Chais, a Beverly Hills philanthropist, who allegedly oversaw three funds that invested the entirety of their assets – nearly $1 billion – with Madoff.  In channeling the money to Madoff, the SEC says the associates collected several hundred million dollars in fees.

Madoff’s sentence is the maximum allowed under federal law. After hearing the sentence read aloud, the courtroom erupted into universal applause.

The case is U.S. v. Madoff, 09-cr-00213, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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