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Madoff Sentenced to 150 Years

Burt Ross, an investor from Englewood, New Jersey who lost money with Bernard Madoff says the sentencing of Madoff to 150 years in prison was a punishment based on the loss of trust, not just the loss of money. Video by AP

One by one, they had implored the judge to keep Madoff jailed for life, describing through tears and tremors of anger how he had forced them to take on several jobs instead of retiring, give up on paying for their children's college education, sell their homes or rely on government assistance.

"Mr. Madoff is sentenced to life as his victims are sentenced to life," Maureen Ebel, a Madoff victim and 61-year-old widow from Pennsylvania, said after the 90-minute hearing.

Madoff's attorney Ira Lee Sorkin had asked the judge for a 12-year sentence, saying that "vengeance is not the goal of punishment." Sorkin said that his client was cooperating with authorities and that Madoff had willingly given himself up when he informed his sons of his $50 billion scheme in December.

But Chin declined, saying the magnitude of the fraud was "off the charts" -- literally, as federal sentencing guidelines go up only to losses as high as $400 million. Madoff's confession came only after he knew his scheme was within days of collapse, Chin said. "I simply do not get the sense that Mr. Madoff has done all that he could or told all that he knows," he said.

Before the sentence was handed down, Madoff, dressed in a dark gray suit, white shirt and black tie, sat still as the victims spoke about 12 feet behind him. He briefly turned to face his victims while reading a prepared statement. "I'm sorry," he said. "I know that doesn't help you."

Madoff said allegations that he and his wife were unsympathetic to the victims were false. He lives in a "tormented state," and his wife "cries herself to sleep every night," he said.

Ruth Madoff, in her first public statement after the fraud unraveled, said she, too, was a victim.

"The man who committed this horrible fraud is not the man whom I have known for all these years," she said. "In the end, to say that I feel devastated for the many whom my husband has destroyed is truly inadequate."

Last Friday, Chin entered a preliminary order that would leave Madoff nothing and his wife $2.5 million. The extent of Madoff's fraud is still unclear; about $13 billion in losses have been documented, but prosecutors believe that the loss is much greater.

The Madoff case has brought regulatory agencies, in particular the Securities and Exchange Commission, under attack for failing to protect investors despite red flags. The SEC's inspector general is investigating.

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