Bernie Madoff, the architect of one of the largest financial frauds in American history, has died at age 82. A former chairman of the Nasdaq Stock Market and a fixture on Wall Street for decades, Madoff shocked the world in December 2008 when he confessed his investment business was a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme. He pleaded guilty in March 2009 and was given the longest sentence allowed.
A statement from the Bureau of Prisons on Wednesday said Madoff died at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, N.C. His death came roughly a year after his attorney asked a federal court to release him from prison as he fought a terminal illness.
The size and duration of his fraud were elusive. Initial reports indicated $65 billion had been wiped out at Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities.
Madoff’s portfolio existed only on paper. He hadn’t invested clients’ money, instead shuffling billions of dollars through his company’s bank account and fabricating statements showing profits year after year. Ultimately, a court-appointed trustee estimated Mr. Madoff took $17 billion of customer money through the scheme.
Madoff, who had served the first decade of a 150-year sentence, had chronic kidney failure and 18 months to live, his attorney wrote at the time.
“Mr. Madoff doesn’t dispute the severity of his crimes nor does he seek to minimize the suffering of his victims,” his attorney wrote at the time. “Now, after over 10 years of incarceration and with less than 18 months to live, Mr. Madoff humbly asks this Court for a modicum of compassion.”
Madoff cultivated a large, though not solely, Jewish clientele. His wealthy and well-known clients included members of the Wilpon family, the previous owners of the New York Mets; the late Elie Wiesel, the Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate; actors Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedwick and John Malkovich, banks, hedge funds and charities; and thousands of elderly retirees. Victims crowded into his 2009 sentencing hearing.
In 2016, an ABC television movie called “Madoff” starred Richard Dreyfuss as the con man. HBO released its own film, “The Wizard of Lies,” based on a book by Diana Henriques, in 2017 with Robert DeNiro as Mr. Madoff and Michelle Pfeiffer as his wife, Ruth.