Politics

Lawyer says he lobbied Mnuchin and a congressman to reduce Bernie Madoff's sentence

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Key Points
  • It's unlikely President Donald Trump will grant clemency to Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff, according to a lawyer who has been trying to get the disgraced financier's 150-year sentence commuted.
  • Yet the attorney, James Craven, told CNBC he sent letters to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., for that purpose.
Bernard Madoff (C) walks out from Federal Court after a bail hearing in Manhattan January 5, 2009 in New York City. Madoff is accused of running a $50 billion Ponzi scheme through his investment company. 
Hiroko Masuike | Getty Images

It's unlikely President Donald Trump will grant clemency to Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff, according to a lawyer who has been trying to get the disgraced financier's sentence commuted. Yet the attorney said he lobbied top officials for that purpose.

The attorney, James Craven, sent letters to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., to try to get Madoff's 150-year sentence reduced, the lawyer told CNBC in an email.

Brandon Sample, Madoff's attorney, referred CNBC to Craven as the "attorney who has been working on clemency for" the former Wall Street tycoon.

Those letters were sent in addition to a petition for clemency to the Department of Justice. Madoff, who has said that he is dying of kidney disease, did not ask for a pardon.

"I have contacted Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin and Congressman Jim Himes of Connecticut, where Ruth Madoff lives," Craven said in an email when asked what beyond the petition Madoff's team has done to try to get a reduction in jail time.

Ruth Madoff is Bernie Madoff's wife. She has lived for years in Greenwich, which is part of Himes' district.

Craven said there has been "no response to 2 or 3 letters to Mnuchin."

"Himes responded because he is Ruth's congressman, and someone in his office said they'd look into it," Craven added.

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He declined to say when the letters were sent or to provide copies of that correspondence.

A representative for Himes confirmed that the office did receive an attorney's request to look into a Madoff clemency issue, and the congressman's office did not intervene.

"As a rule, Congressman Himes's office does not involve itself in judicial proceedings. In this case, we received an inquiry from a constituent's attorney asking us to look into a clemency issue," Patrick Malone, a spokesman for Himes' office, told CNBC. "After reviewing the request, a determination was made not to intervene on the constituent's behalf."

Representatives for the Treasury Department did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Craven said that he is not convinced that Trump will commute Madoff's sentence, because "his case is not the most sympathetic."

Madoff pleaded guilty in 2009 to widescale fraud for swindling investors at his Manhattan financial firm of $65 billion.

Trump is expected to pardon or commute the sentences of dozens of people during his final day in office.

In early 2020, Madoff asked a federal judge to grant him an early release after revealing he had terminal kidney disease and saying that he had less than 18 months to live. The judge later denied that request.

Mnuchin, in addition to having a direct line to Trump, has a connection to the Madoff case.

ProPublica reported in 2016 that after Mnuchin inherited the investment portfolio of his mother, who reportedly was a longtime investor with Madoff, he and his brother liquidated its assets.

The liquidation led to the Mnuchins making $3.2 million, ProPublica reported at the time.

The trustee appointed to recoup money for people who were swindled out of their investments with Madoff later sued to recover the money from the Mnuchins. But that case was later dropped due to time restrictions, according to the BBC.