Bernie Madoff got the maximum sentence of 150 years in prison for stealing billions in what the judge called his “extraordinarily evil” Ponzi scheme. Probably it should now be renamed a Madoff scheme — Mr. Ponzi has been dead since 1949, and his take was denominated in mere millions. He was sentenced to only five years in prison in his initial trial for the scheme that made him famous, and upon release he promptly returned to a life of crime.
Madoff, 71, will never draw another free breath, and that’s probably the way it should be. I hereby repent from my smug earlier post, “Sorry, No Tears Here for Madoff’s Clients,” written just days after Madoff’s arrest, when it seemed like the victims were primarily high-rollers who got too greedy chasing returns that were too good to be true. It turns out many of the victims are clearly worthy of sympathy, and besides, even high-rollers don’t deserve to be cheated in a highly sophisticated scheme.
Interestingly, Madoff’s attorney had suggested a sentence of 12 years, a duration one year shorter than his expected lifespan according to the actuarial tables. You know you’re in trouble when your own lawyer wants to put you away for 12 years.