Bernie Madoff is dead, the 82-year-old Wall Street financier who masterminded the largest Ponzi scheme in history and defrauded thousands of investors out of billions of dollars, has died in prison.
The Federal Bureau of Prisons confirmed that Madoff died at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina, though the cause of his death was not confirmed.
Madoff was serving a 150-year sentence at the prison, where he had been treated for what his attorney called terminal kidney disease.
Madoff’s death comes about 12 years into a 150-year prison sentence stemming from fraud charges that bilked thousands of investors out of an estimated $65 billion in promised returns on $20 billion invested over the years.
He defrauded as many as 37,000 people in 136 countries over four decades before he was busted on Dec. 11, 2008, after his two sons turned him in.
On March 12, 2009, Madoff pleaded guilty to 11 federal crimes and admitted to operating the largest private Ponzi scheme in history. He was sentenced three months later to the maximum sentence: 150 years in prison with restitution of $170 billion.
His victims included the famous director Steven Spielberg, actor Kevin Bacon, former New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon, Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Weisel and ordinary investors, like Burt Ross, who lost $5 million in the scheme.
In court, he insisted that it was all his idea that his family knew nothing about the scheme even though his wife, Ruth, had once kept the books, his sons were senior officers, and his younger brother, Peter, was chief compliance officer.
In a 2013 email to CNBC from prison, Madoff insisted that he began legitimately but that he started committing fraud in the early 1990s after the Gulf War caused the market to stall.
It ran smoothly until the financial crash of 2008 when suddenly, all of his clients started asking for redemption at once.
That is when he revealed to sons Mark and Andrew that it had all been a lie.
Mark hanged himself in his Manhattan apartment. His wife later blamed her father-in-law, telling ABC: ‘He couldn’t get out, he was so betrayed and so hurt by Bernie.
Andrew died from lymphoma in 2014.
Bernie’s brother Peter was also jailed. He spent eight years in prison for his role in the scheme and was released last June.
In 2019, Ruth reached a settlement with some of her husband’s surviving victims to pay them $600,000.