A federal judge closed the book today on the largest fraud case Wall Street has ever seen, sentencing Ponzi-scheme mastermind Bernard Madoff to the maximum term of 150 years in prison.
U.S. District Court Judge Denny Chin of New York announced the decision today, after Madoff pleaded guilty in March to orchestrating an estimated $65 billion investor fraud.
The judge said he based the decision on the number of Madoff's victims, the amount of money he stole, and the extent of the damage he caused.
About 1,341 investors in Madoff's firm lost a total of more than $13 billion because of the scheme, which lured new investors with the promise of large returns then used that cash to deliver the returns to earlier investors. His plan unraveled after investors withdrew their funds in the wake of the credit crisis.
"This is a violent crime without a tangible weapon," said one of the victims in court.
Turning to face some of his victims, Madoff apologized but offered no excuses for his behavior.
"I live in a tormented state for all the pain and suffering I created," Madoff said. "I left a legacy of shame. It is something I will live with for the rest of my life."
Madoff had pleaded guilty to 11 criminal counts. They include securities fraud, investment adviser fraud, money laundering, and false filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, along with other crimes.