News World Ponzi scheme fraudster Bernie Madoff dies in US prison while serving 150 years

Ponzi scheme fraudster Bernie Madoff dies in US prison while serving 150 years

Convicted fraudster Bernie Madoff at his trial in 2009, when he was sentenced to 150 years. Photo AAP
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Bernard Madoff, the financier convicted for running the largest Ponzi scheme in history, has died in a US federal prison while serving a 150-year sentence for fraud.

Madoff, 82, had been suffering from chronic kidney failure and several other medical problems.

After his sentencing in June 2009 for engineering a fraud estimated as high as $US64.8 billion ($A84.3 billion), he had been held at a federal prison in Butner, North Carolina.

Madoff’s thousands of victims, large and small, included individuals, charities, pension funds and hedge funds.

Among those he betrayed were the actors Kevin Bacon, Kyra Sedgwick and John Malkovich, baseball Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax, and a charity associated with director Steven Spielberg.

Actor Kevin Bacon has never revealed exactly how much he lost after investing in Madoff’s ponzi scheme, but other investors lost millions. Photo: Getty

“We thought he was God. We trusted everything in his hands,” Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, whose foundation lost $US15.2 million ($A19.8 million), said in 2009.

Some victims lost everything. Many came from the Jewish community, where Madoff had been a major philanthropist.

Madoff’s crimes were revealed to authorities in 2008 by his two sons, who were not part of the scheme.

The fraud exposed holes at the US Securities and Exchange Commission, which through incompetence or neglect botched a half-dozen examinations into Madoff, who was the largest market-maker on the Nasdaq and once served as its non-executive chairman.

His brokerage firm was located in a Midtown Manhattan tower known as the Lipstick Building, where employees did not know he was running his fraud on a different floor. Only a trusted few were in on the scheme.

In a typical Ponzi scheme, money from newer investors is used to pay sums owed to earlier investors.

Madoff said his fraud began in the early 1990s, but prosecutors and many victims believe it started earlier.

Investors were entranced by the steady, double-digit annual gains that Madoff seemed to generate, and which others found impossible to explain or duplicate.

The money helped Madoff and his wife, Ruth, enjoy luxuries such as a Manhattan penthouse, a French villa and expensive cars and yachts, with a combined net worth of about $US825 million ($A1.1 billion).