Politics

Prosecutors oppose Ponzi king Bernie Madoff bid for early prison release, don't dispute he's dying

Key Points
  • Federal prosecutors told a judge that they oppose Ponzi scheme kingpin Bernie Madoff's recent request for early release from prison on compassionate grounds due to his terminal kidney disease.
  • A lawyer for Madoff, 81, who orchestrated the largest Ponzi scheme in history, last month said in a court filing that the fraudster has "less than 18 months to live."
  • Madoff pleaded guilty in 2009 to 11 crimes related to swindling of billions of dollars from thousands of investors over several decades.
Bernard L. Madoff leaves US Federal Court January 14, 2009.
Timothy A. Clary | Getty Images

Federal prosecutors on Wednesday told a judge that they oppose Ponzi scheme kingpin Bernie Madoff's recent request for early release from prison on compassionate grounds due to his terminal kidney disease.

"The nature of Madoff's crime — unprecedented in scope and magnitude — wholly justified the 150-year sentence this Court imposed and is by itself a sufficient reason to deny Madoff's motion," prosecutors wrote in a filing in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

"Furthermore, since his sentencing, Madoff has demonstrated a wholesale lack of understanding of the seriousness of his crimes and a lack of compassion for his victims, underscoring that he is undeserving of compassionate release himself."

The filing by the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York, which cited letters from some of the more than 500 victim who have written Judge Denny Chin to oppose Madoff's early release, pointedly does not dispute Madoff's claim that he could die in less than two years.

But prosecutors said that the 81-year-old's condition in a federal prison facility in North Carolina had improved since last November, when he restarted dialysis treatments.

And they noted that when Madoff was sentenced in 2009, a judge had rejected an argument by his lawyer for a 15-to-20 year sentence, which could give him a chance to die a free man, "to send a message that Madoff had been punished to the fullest extent of the law."

"Even though time has passed and Madoff may now be near the end of his life, that message is equally important," prosecutors wrote. "He should not be released."

A lawyer for Madoff, who orchestrated the largest Ponzi scheme in history while running Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities in New York City., last month said in a court filing that the fraudster has "less than 18 months to live."

The attorney said Madoff is suffering from "numerous other serious medical conditions" including cardiovascular disease and hypertension.

VIDEO0:4300:43
Bernie Madoff seeks medical release from prison

"I'm terminally ill," Madoff told The Washington Post in an article published on the day his request became known.

"There's no cure for my type of disease. So, you know, I've served. I've served 11 years already, and, quite frankly, I've suffered through it," Madoff told the newspaper.

The First Step Act, which Congress passed in 2018, gives federal judges the power to release prison inmates on health grounds.

Madoff is asking to be set free so that he can live with a friend.

He pleaded guilty in 2009 to 11 crimes related swindling of billions of dollars from thousands of investors over several decades.

Prosecutors wrote in their court filing Wednesday that "approximately 520 victims who wrote to the Court are overwhelmingly opposed to Madoff's request for early release."

But, they added," only approximately 20, or 4%, wrote in support of his release. It is remarkable that so many victims took the time to write to the Court over 10 years after Madoff's original sentencing."

One victim, whose letter was cited by prosecutors, wrote: "Our entire life savings were stolen by Madoff and we have never recovered either financially or emotionally. Regardless, we found some small satisfaction in learning that Madoff had been sentenced to 150 years in jail for his crime. Please do not waver and do not let him pretend remorse because he has none."

Another victim whose letter was mentioned in the filing "wrote that she left the courthouse after Madoff's original sentencing 'with a feeling that justice had been done,' and is left now with the question: 'Should an incarcerated person be released from prison because of a terminal illness, is not the serving of a 150 year sentence meant to be terminal?' " prosecutors noted.

Prosecutors wrote, "Denying Madoff's motion will uphold his victims' and the public's faith in our system of justice."

"It will send the message that after a just conviction and a sentence appropriate to the crime, one of history's worst fraudsters cannot escape the full consequences of his criminal conduct, even when those consequences include spending his last days in prison," prosecutors wrote.

"Madoff's motion should be denied."

Madoff's request for release came nearly seven months after he asked President Donald Trump to grant him executive clemency, which would release him.

Last month former WorldCom CEO Bernard Ebbers died, less than two months after being released on compassionate grounds from federal prison in Texas, where he was serving a 25-year prison term for overseeing one of the largest accounting frauds in U.S. history.

Madoff's petition cited Ebbers' release, which came at the order of a judge in the same New York federal district where Madoff was convicted.

VIDEO4:5404:54
Bernie Madoff says he's ill, requests early release so he can die at home