Madoff Sentenced To Maximum 150 Years In Jail; Wife 'Betrayed, Ashamed'
UPDATED with full Ruth Madoff statement at 1:16 p.m.:
Confessed Ponzi-schemer Bernie Madoff, who swindled investors out of as much as $65 billion, was sentenced moments ago to the maximum allowable 150 years in jail.
U.S. Judge Denny Chin characterized the Madoff scheme as "staggering," CNBC is reporting.
Chin said that Madoff did not do all he could do to aid investigators to help them recover swindled money or tell all he knows.
Chin said Madoff paid himself at least $250 million according to tax returns. He added that "symbolism" is important in sentencing.
He added that he did not receive a single letter from Madoff's friends or family seeking leniency.
Chin recounted one letter that strongly affected him. It told the story of a Madoff investor who had died of a heart attack. Madoff, presumably at the man's funeral, put his arm around the the widow and said, "Your money is safe." The widow then gave Madoff more money, all of which is gone.
UPDATE: For her part, Madoff's wife, Ruth, released a statement shortly after the verdict, saying she feels “betrayed and confused” by her husband's Ponzi scheme.
Here is the entire text of the statement:
"I am breaking my silence now, because my reluctance to speak has been interpreted as indifference or lack of sympathy for the victims of my husband Bernie’s crime, which is exactly the opposite of the truth.
From the moment I learned from my husband that he had committed an enormous fraud, I have had two thoughts -- first, that so many people who trusted him would be ruined financially and emotionally, and second, that my life with the man I have known for over 50 years was over.
Many of my husband’s investors were my close friends and family. And in the days since December, I have read, with immense pain, the wrenching stories of people whose life savings have evaporated because of his crime.
My husband was the one we (and I include myself) respected and trusted with our lives and our livelihoods, often for many, many years, and who was respected in the securities industry as well. Then there is the other man who stunned us all with his confession and is responsible for this terrible situation in which so many now find themselves.
Lives have been upended and futures have been taken away. All those touched by this fraud feel betrayed; disbelieving the nightmare they woke to. I am embarrassed and ashamed. Like everyone else, I feel betrayed and confused. The man who committed this horrible fraud is not the man whom I have known for all these years.
In the end, to say that I feel devastated for the many whom my husband has destroyed is truly inadequate. Nothing I can say seems sufficient regarding the daily suffering that all those innocent people are enduring because of my husband. But if it matters to them at all, please know that not a day goes by when I don’t ache over the stories that I have heard and read."
Her statement effectively throws her husband under the bus in an attempt to spare herself from prosecution as a co-conspirator.
She said the first she heard of the Ponzi scheme was when her husband told her. She said her trust was betrayed along with everyone else's.
A judge stripped most of Ruth Madoff's $80 million in assets, leaving her with $2.5 million to live on.
This New York Times piece reports how Ruth Madoff has been shunned by everyone in New York -- including her hairdresser.
Prosecutors asked for as much as 150 years in jail for Madoff. His lawyer, Ira Sorkin, asked for leniency and a 12-year-sentence for the 71-year-old Madoff.
Madoff: 'I Thought I Could Get Out Of it'
11:21 a.m.: Madoff is now making his statement to the court and began by saying: "I cannot offer you an excuse for my behavior," CNBC is reporting.
He said, "I thought I could get out of it. The harder I tried to get out of it, the deeper the hole. I could not accept for once in my life I had failed. I was responsible for a great deal of suffering and pain. I am in torment....This is a horrible guilt to live with."
Then Madoff, who had had his back to nine of his victims in the court, turned to them and said, "I am sorry. I know that doesn't help you."
He said: "How can you excuse deceiving a wife of 50 years?...How do you excuse deceiving investors and 200 employees" and lying to his sons.
"I made a terrible mistake," Madoff said, adding that he "left a legacy of shame to my family and my grandchidren."
Madoff spoke for about nine minutes.
Madoff Lawyer: I Represent 'Deeply Flawed Character'
11:11 a.m.: Madoff lawyer Ira Sorkin told U.S. District Judge Denny Chin that he (Sorkin) represents a "deeply flawed character" who is nevertheless, "not a number, not a statistic," CNBC reports.
He reminded the judge that "vengeance is not a part of punishment."
Sorkin said the $65 billion loss quoted in the press is "simply not true" and said it's possible to get $13.2 billion back for investors.
Sorkin is asking for 12 years of Madoff. Prosecutors want 150 years.
Victim To Madoff: 'May God Spare You No Mercy'
10:39 a.m.: "Do not confuse Bernie Madoff's prepared statement with remorse," victim Tom Fitzmaurice told U.S. District Judge Denny Chin, CNBC reports.
Fitzmaurice then turned to Madoff -- whose back is to his victims -- and said: "Madoff, your sons despise you, your marriage is one from hell. May God spare you no mercy."
Another victim alluded to Dante's "Inferno" and its three-headed devil, saying: "I hope Satan can grow a fourth mouth for Madoff."
Here are some more excerpts from victim statements delivered in court today, according to the Associated Press:
-- “I was introduced to Bernard Madoff 21 years ago at a business meeting. ... I now view that day as perhaps the unluckiest day of my life. ... This beast who I call Madoff. He walks among us. He dresses like us ... but underneath the facade is a true beast. ... He is an equal opportunity destroyer.” — Sheryl Weinstein.
-- “The man sitting in this courtroom robbed me. ... He discarded me like road kill. ... Forgiveness for now will have to come from someone other than me.” — Miriam Siegman.
-- “He stole from the rich. He stole from the poor. He stole from the in-between. He had no values. ... His was a violent crime without the use of a tangible weapon. ... My life will never be the same. I am financially ruined and will worry every day about how I will take care of my wife.” — Tom Fitzmaurice.
-- “Life has been a living hell. It feels like the nightmare we can’t wake from.” — Carla Hirshhorn.
-- “Bernard Madoff should no longer be let back in society.” — Michael Schwartz.
Click here to read even more sentencing letters from Madoff victims.
Victim: I Had To Take Three Jobs After Madoff Swindled Me
10:26 a.m.: The second of the nine swindled victims who has to testify, widow Maureen Ebel, 61, just told the court that she lost her retirement savings and that she's working three jobs to pay the bills.
She then turned to Madoff -- who kept his back to her, CNBC reports -- and said: "Mr. Madoff, goodness is something you have been blind to your whole life. Goodness is better than all the yachts and homes you have. Mr. Madoff, I do not believe you."
The federal probation department recommends that Madoff get 50 years, Judge Denny Chin said, the Associated Press reports.
First Victim: 'We Did Nothing Wrong'
10:21 a.m.: One of the nine victims who has asked to testify, retired corrections officer Dominic Ambrosino, said he remembers the "exact moment" when he understood he lost his investments, thanks to Madoff's big swindle. The former c.o. wondered how he and his wife would pay his bills.
"We did nothing wrong," he said, according to CNBC.
The network reports that the victims are standing behind Madoff and he has maintained his back to them.
Judge To Madoff: I Will Impose 'Reasonable Sentence'
10:14 a.m.: U.S. District Judge Denny Chin told Madoff that would impose a "reasonable sentence," but did not tip his hand to what that would be. He noted that the most serious of the 11 criminal charges Madoff has confessed to carries a sentence of 20 years.
Madoff's victims will speak first, then Madoff lawyer Ira Sorkin, then Madoff and finally prosecutors have the last say.
Madoff Sentencing Set For Today
8:33 a.m.: Confessed multi-billion-dollar Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff will be sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Denny Chin in Manhattan. Madoff faces up to 150 years in prison.
The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. Madoff is expected to speak, and at least eight victims have asked to speak as well.
In March, Madoff confessed to 11 criminal charges, including money laundering and multiple counts of fraud. He told his sons in December that his firm, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC was a "giant Ponzi scheme" and told FBI agents that he “paid investors with money that wasn’t there.” Madoff is a former head of the NASDAQ.
Madoff's lawyer, Ira Sorkin, has asked the judge for a 12-year sentence for the 71-year-old Madoff, saying he deserves leniency for turning himself in, not fleeing the country(!) and cooperating with authorities.
But prosecutors don't think Madoff has cooperated enough. So far, only about $1.2 billion of the $65 billion in stolen money and inflated earnings have been recovered. Finding the rest -- there are about 1,300 identified defrauded Madoff victims -- may take years, and figuring out how to do it is the big mystery of the case.
As such, today's sentencing represents the best approximation of satisfaction most victims may feel in this case.
At least two suicides have been attributed to the Madoff scandal. Investors in Britain and France each took their lives after losing millions in Madoff's hands.
Below, I talk about Madoff's sentencing this morning on Washington's Fox affiliate, WTTG-5.
Pay no attention to my goof, about halfway through, when I confuse scandal-plagued South Carolina governor "Mark Sanford" with scandal-plagued billionaire investment manager "Allen Stanford," which is who I meant. Hey, it was live TV. If your browser does not support the video, click here to view it.
June 29, 2009; 1:16 PM ET
Categories: The Ticker | Tags: Bernie Madoff
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