MANHATTAN (CN) – A federal judge sentenced convicted Wall Street swindler Bernard Madoff to 150 years in prison for orchestrating the largest and most sweeping Ponzi scheme in history. Scattered applause broke out in the crowded courtroom after the judge issued the maximum sentence to the disgraced 71-year-old.
U.S. District Judge Denny Chin rejected a request by Madoff’s lawyer for leniency and said he disagreed that victims of the scheme were seeking “mob vengeance.”
Chin called Madoff’s crimes “extraordinarily evil,” and said it “was not merely a bloodless crime that takes place on paper but one that takes a staggering human toll.” He said the maximum sentence was important for deterrence.
The sentencing came after a 90-minute hearing in which victims described the damage Madoff’s fraud has had on their lives.
“Life has been a living hell,” said Madoff victim Carla Hirshhorn. “It feels like the nightmare we can’t wake from.”
“He stole from the rich,” said Tom Fizmaurice. “He stole from the poor. He stole from the in-between. He had no values.”
Madoff addressed the victims before he was sentenced, apologizing to them and to his family.
“I cannot offer you an excuse for my behavior,” he said. “How do you excuse lying to your brother and your two sons? How do you excuse lying and deceiving a wife who stood by you for 50 years and still does?”
He said he lives “in a tormented state now, knowing all the pain and suffering I’ve created.”
“I’ve left a legacy of shame to my family and grandchildren,” he added.
Madoff finally addressed the victims, saying, “I will turn and face you. I’m sorry. I know that doesn’t help you.”
Last week, Madoff was ordered to forfeit more than $170 billion to settle with the government. The order stripped him and his wife, Ruth, of all their personal property, including real estate, investments and $80 million in assets Ruth claimed were hers. She was left with $2.5 million after the order.
She was ordered to sell their estate in Palm Beach, Fla., a home in Montauk and the $7.5 million Manhattan apartment where she currently lives.
The judge indicated that Madoff would be imprisoned somewhere in the Northeast.