Bernie Madoff, the infamous orchestrator of the largest Ponzi scheme in history, died in federal prison on Wednesday. He was 82 years-old.

Entertainment Tonight reported that the federal Bureau of Prisons released a statement confirming that Madoff had died at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina, adding that his cause of death has yet to be determined by the medical examiner.

Madoff became one of the most hated people in the country after he was arrested for swindling thousands of clients out of billions of dollars in investments over the course of decades. When Madoff was arrested in 2008, fake account statements were telling clients they had holdings worth $60 billion. A court-appointed trustee went on to recover more than $13 billion of an estimated $17.5 billion that investors put into Madoff’s business.

Madoff was a former chairman of the Nasdaq stock market who was seen as a renowned and self-made financial guru in the decades before his arrest. He was particularly known for having a Midas touch that defied market fluctuations, much to the surprise and excitement of his clients.

Madoff’s clients included a wide range of people, from celebrities like film director Steven Spielberg, actor Kevin Bacon and Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax to normal Florida retirees. It wasn’t until 2008 that his business was exposed as a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme that took out the entire fortunes of some people and wiped out entire charities and organizations.

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In March of 2009, Madoff pled guilty to securities fraud and other charges, saying he was “deeply sorry and ashamed.” By that point, he was so hated that he had to wear a bulletproof vest to his court appearances. His furious investors cheered as he was led out of the court in handcuffs to begin his new life in prison.

“He stole from the rich. He stole from the poor. He stole from the in between. He had no values,” former investor Tom Fitzmaurice said at his sentencing. “He cheated his victims out of their money so he and his wife … could live a life of luxury beyond belief.”

Madoff was then sentenced to 150 years in prison.

“Here, the message must be sent that Mr. Madoff’s crimes were extraordinarily evil and that this kind of irresponsible manipulation of the system is not merely a bloodless financial crime that takes place just on paper, but it is instead … one that takes a staggering human toll,” said U.S. District Judge Denny Chin.

One of Madoff’s sons committed suicide in 2010 on the anniversary of his father’s arrest, and another was sentenced to ten years in prison in 2012 for his own role in the scheme. Madoff’s third son Andrew died of cancer at the age of 48. His wife Ruth is still alive, had she has spent the years since his arrest trying to lay as low as possible.

This piece was written by Mark Baker on April 14, 2021. It originally appeared in and is used by permission.

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