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Madoff gets 150 years in prison

CONVICTED swindler Bernard Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison yesterday for fraud so extensive that the judge said he needed to send a symbolic message to those who might imitate his crimes and to victims who need relief.

Applause broke out in the crowded Manhattan courtroom after US District Judge Denny Chin issued the maximum sentence to the 71-year-old defendant, who said he sought no forgiveness and knew he must live "with this pain, this torment, for the rest of my life."

Chin rejected a request by Madoff's lawyer for leniency and said he disagreed that victims of the fraud were seeking mob vengeance.

"Here the message must be sent that Mr Madoff's crimes were extraordinarily evil and that this kind of manipulation of the system is not just a bloodless crime that takes place on paper, but one instead that takes a staggering toll," Chin said.

The judge said the estimate that Madoff has cost his victims more than US$13 billion was conservative because it did not include money from feeder funds. "Objectively speaking, the fraud here was staggering," he said.

Before Chin announced the sentence, Madoff, wearing a dark suit, white shirt and a tie, sat and listened as emotional witnesses described how he spoiled their security.

"Life has been a living hell. It feels like the nightmare we can't wake from," said Carla Hirshhorn.

The jailed Madoff already has taken a severe financial hit: Last week, a judge issued a preliminary US$171 billion forfeiture order stripping him of all his personal property, including real estate, investments, and US$80 million in assets his wife Ruth had claimed were hers. The order left her with US$2.5 million.

The terms require the Madoffs to sell a US$7 million Manhattan apartment where Ruth Madoff still lives plus other property. Before Madoff became a symbol of Wall Street greed, he had earned a reputation as a trusted money manager with a Midas touch. But late last year, Madoff made a dramatic confession: Authorities say he pulled his sons aside and told them it was "all just one big lie."

Madoff pleaded guilty in March to securities fraud and other charges.


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