In a courtroom packed with several hundred spectators—some of them his ruined victims—Ponzi-schemer Bernard Madoffwas sentenced to 150 years in prison by U.S. District Judge Denny Chin. In the courtroom, Madoff told Chin, federal prosecutors and his victims that he thought he could "work his way out" of fraud and that he lives in a "tormented state." He added that he lied to his brother and sons and that his wife Ruth Madoff cries herself to sleep each night. He did turn to face his victims briefly and said:
"I'm sorry; I know that doesn't help you. I cannot offer you an excuse for my behavior. "How do you excuse betraying thousands of investors who entrusted me with their life savings? How do you excuse deceiving 200 employees who spent most of their working life with me? How do you excuse lying to a brother and two sons who spent their entire lives helping to build a successful business? How do you excuse lying to a wife who stood by you for 50 years?"
However, Chin cited the "staggering fraud" and countered Madoff's defense claims that the loss was not $65 billion but just $13 billion—the $13 billion number didn't include feeder funds. Chin, who said that Madoff hasn't told all he knows and added that no one submitted letters to vouch for Madoff, said he would impose a "just" sentence: "The symbolism of the sentence is very important" and that "A message will be sent" with this sentence. The judge was also concerned with how Madoff lied to regulators. Victims clapped after Chin laid down the sentence.
Madoff also heard from some of the victims, including Donald Ambrosino, a retired NYC corrections officer who lost his life savings thanks to Madoff: "How could someone do this to us? We worked honestly and so hard. This can't be real. We did nothing wrong" According to the Times, another victim, Maureen Ebel, told the court, "I have lost all of my life’s hard-earned savings. I have lost the home my husband and I had owned for 25 years because of this theft. I have lost the ability to care for myself in this old age." You can read letters from his victims in this 141-page PDF.
Madoff's attorney had pushed for a sentence of 12 years, which would be one year less than the 71-year-old's life expectancy, but the Wall Street Journal says that would actually only add up to about 9 years in federal prison because of a combination of time served, good behavior, and possible home confinement. Prosecutors demanded a 150-year sentence that would guarantee that he dies behind bars.