New York, Apr 14 (EFE).- Bernard Madoff, sentenced to 150 years in prison for perpetrating what is thought to be the greatest financial fraud in the history of the United States, died Wednesday behind bars. He was 82.
In an ultimately unsuccessful attempt last year to get him released due to the threat of the Covid-19 pandemic, Madoff’s attorneys said that he suffered from terminal kidney disease and other illnesses.
But neither Madoff’s lawyers nor authorities at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina – a facility for ailing prisoners – specified the cause of death.
Madoff, the son of lower-middle-class parents in the New York City borough of Queens, was just 22 when he and younger brother Peter (who left prison last year after serving most of a 10-year sentence as Bernie’s co-conspirator) set up shop on Wall Street with $5,000 in savings from summer jobs.
In 1971, Bernie Madoff was part of the team that launched Nasdaq, the first electronic stock exchange.
His firm, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, began as a legitimate enterprise, but at some point in the 1990s became a front for a secret operation that attracted high-profile investors, such as filmmaker Steven Spielberg, with promises of lavish returns.
Amid the global financial crisis of 2008, Madoff admitted to his sons that the business was a pyramid scheme using money from new investors to pay existing clients, which included retirees and charities along with wealthy celebrities.
He took in roughly $17.5 billion from investors, of which more than $14 billion has been recovered and returned to the defrauded clients.
Madoff claimed to have as much as $65 billion in assets under management before confessing to his sons that it was “all just one big lie.”
A lawyer for the family contacted regulatory authorities, who in turn alerted federal prosecutors, and Madoff was arrested in December 2008.
“I cannot adequately express how sorry I am for what I have done,” Madoff said in court in March 2009 while pleading guilty. “I realized that my arrest and this day would inevitably come.” EFE