Ponzi Schemer Bernie Madoff Dies in Prison at Age 82

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Jamie Ross, Pilar Melendez
·3 min read
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Stan Honda/Getty
Stan Honda/Getty

Bernie Madoff, the disgraced Wall Street financier who admitted to carrying out the biggest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history, died in prison on Wednesday morning at the age of 82, a Bureau of Prisons spokesperson confirmed to The Daily Beast.

The spokesperson said he died of natural causes and it’s not believed to be COVID-related. Madoff was serving a 150-year prison sentence, after pleading guilty in 2009 to swindling thousands of investors for decades. Associated Press first reported on his death.

Last year, he complained that he was dying from terminal kidney disease, and asked a judge to grant him an early release. However, the request was denied, and Madoff spent his final days at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina.

“Last year Bernie Madoff asked his sentencing court to grant him compassionate release so he could die at home with his remaining friends and family. At the time, Bernie had a life expectancy of less than 18 months,” Brandon Sample, one of Madoff’s attorneys, said in a Wednesday statement.

“Bernie’s sentencing judge denied that request, despite Bernie’s terminal kidney disease and expressed remorse for his crimes. Bernie, up until his death, lived with guilt and remorse for his crimes. Although the crimes Bernie was convicted of have come to define who he was—he was also a father and a husband. He was soft-spoken and an intellectual. Bernie was by no means perfect. But no man is.”

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Madoff will go down in history as one of America’s most notorious fraudsters, who authorities say bilked as many as 37,000 people in more than 130 countries over 40 years. He was eventually busted on Dec. 11, 2008, after two of his sons turned him in.

During his trial, in which he had to wear a bulletproof vest due to the public vitriol surrounding him, Madoff admitted to defrauding victims of billions of dollars, saying he was “deeply sorry and ashamed.”

Some of Madoff’s victims included Hollywood director Steven Spielberg, former New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon, actor Kevin Bacon, Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Weisel.

“He stole from the rich. He stole from the poor. He stole from the in-between. He had no values,” former investor Tom Fitzmaurice told U.S. District Judge Denny Chin during Madoff’s sentencing, according to the AP. “He cheated his victims out of their money so he and his wife... could live a life of luxury beyond belief.”

It’s estimated that investors put $17.5 billion into Madoff’s business. The New York Times reported that the paper losses totaled $64.8 billion, which included the fictional profits he had credited into his customers’ bank accounts. About $13 billion was recovered after his conviction.

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After his incarceration, the Madoff family was hit with personal and financial hardships. In June 2009, a judge ordered he pay $171 billion in forfeiture—a move that wiped out the family fortune and left Madoff’s wife, Ruth, with $2.5 million.

In December 2011, Mark Madoff died by suicide on the second anniversary of his father’s arrest. Madoff's younger brother, Peter, was sentenced to prison in 2012 after pleading guilty to falsifying records and conspiracy to commit securities fraud.

The Madoff’s third son, Andrew, died of cancer in 2014, at age 48.

Madoff told the Washington Post in Feb. 2020, “I’m terminally ill... There’s no cure for my type of disease. So, you know, I’ve served. I’ve served 11 years already, and, quite frankly, I’ve suffered through it.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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