Fraudster Bernard Madoff has been sentenced to 150 years behind bars after swindling thousands of investors out of billions of dollars in Wall Street’s biggest ever scam.
The 71-year-old apologised to the victims of his $65 billion Ponzi scheme, many of whom gathered outside the New York court as he learnt his fate. The scam paid out huge returns to existing clients using the money of new clients.
Madoff - who wore a dark suit and kept his eyes on the ground as witness statements were read out prior to the sentencing - said he would "live with this pain, this torment for the rest of my life".
He said he knew that fraud was "wrong" and "criminal" but added: "I believed it would end shortly and I would be able to extricate myself and my clients from the scheme."
The disgraced financier faced a maximum sentence of 150 years in jail, despite his lawyer calling for a 'lenient' 12-year jail term.
More than 4,000 individuals and organisations - including Hollywood stars, hedge funds, banks and charities - were left heavily out of pocket after the details of Madoff's fraud came to light last December.
Many private investors also lost their life savings and still do not know if they have any chance of recovering the money. Corporate victims included HSBC, which lost around $1 billion, Royal Bank of Scotland, Man Group and Japan's Nomura Holdings.
However, court papers reveal that investigators do not know exactly how much money was stolen during the 20-year scam, which delivered spectacular returns on investors’ cash.
Prosecutors claim that say $170 billion flowed through Madoff's fund management business since the 1980s. In the weeks before his December arrest, the firm's statements showed it held $65 billion in its accounts.
Last week, District Judge Denny Chin ordered Madoff to sell the $7 million Manhatten apartment where his wife Ruth lives. His $11 million estate in Florida, $4 million home in Montauk and his $2.2 million boat will also be sold off.
The trustee winding down the Madoff firm has so far collected $1.2 billion to return to investors, which has left many broke and calling for blood.
In March, Madoff pleaded guilty to 11 charges including securities fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, investment adviser fraud, three counts of money laundering, false statements, perjury, false filings and theft from an employee benefit plan. He was sentenced separately on each count.
His 20-year scam came to light during the financial market chaos, which left investors looking to withdraw $7 billion of funds he did not have.
Madoff will serve his time in a low-or medium-security prison, depending on the length of his incarceration.