Thursday, March 12, 2009

Bernard Madoff Gets Hard Time for His Ponzi Scheming, But Will His Victims Ever Be Whole Again?

What you're about to see is the new Manhattan home of convicted Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff: a jail cell the size of a walk-in closet, with cinderblock walls, linoleum floors and a bunk bed. Breakfast will be served before sunrise, and he can stretch his legs outside, but only every other day — in a cage.

And according to Associated Press reporter Tom Hays, "When inmates first arrive at the jail, they are given physical and psychological exams and instructed on the rules. If cleared to enter the general population, they are issued a baggy brown uniform and assigned to cells measuring 7 1/2-by-8 feet, each fitted with a sink and toilet.

Many inmates must share their cells with another prisoner, but it was not immediately clear Thursday whether Madoff would have a cellmate.

There's a strict schedule: Lights on at 6 a.m., breakfast at 6:30 a.m., lunch at 11 a.m., dinner at 5 p.m., lights out at 11 p.m. During the day, inmates can watch television, play ping pong, work on their cases in a legal library or volunteer for janitorial duty.

On alternate days, they are allowed up on the caged roof, where from courthouse windows they can be seen playing basketball. For court dates, they are shackled and escorted by deputy marshals through an underground tunnel.

The facility allots three hours a week for visits by family or lawyers. Inmates can also spend up to 300 minutes per month making phone calls, which can be monitored.
Those who misbehave or present a risk of violence are thrown into a separate unit where they spend nearly all day locked in their cells and must endure strip searches and constant monitoring by cameras.

Current inmates include former Florida hedge fund manager Arthur Nadel, who is accused of bilking investors out of up to $350 million."

This comes in the aftermath of a "deeply sorry and ashamed" Bernard Madoff pleading guilty earlier today to what could be the biggest, most spectacular swindle Wall Street has even seen, and was sent off to jail in handcuffs to the applause of his furious victims.

The 70-year-old financier could get up to 150 years in prison at sentencing June 16 on 11 counts, including securities fraud and perjury. He could also be fined and ordered to pay restitution to his victims and forfeit any ill-gotten gains.

The scandal turned a well-respected investment professional — Madoff was once chairman of the Nasdaq exchange — into a symbol of Wall Street greed amid the economic meltdown. The public fury toward him was so great that he was known to wear a bulletproof vest to court.

There were thousands whom Madoff victimized: individuals, trusts, pension funds, hedge funds and nonprofit organizations. His Ponzi scheming wiped out people's life savings, ruined charities and foundations, and apparently pushed at least two investors to commit suicide. Investors big and small were swindled, from Florida retirees to celebrities such as Steven Spielberg, actor Kevin Bacon and Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax. Many of Madoff's victims were Jews and Jewish charities, which trusted him because he is Jewish. Those he has swindled and cheated included Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel.

Madoff will now serve hard time, cleaning toilets as part of janitorial duty even as the fortunes of those whom entrusted him are fast circling the toilet. As for those whom he victimized, only time will tell as if they will fully recover and be made whole once again.

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