5 Things You Didn't Know About Bernie Madoff

On March 12, 2009, disgraced financier Bernard Madoff pleaded guilty after defrauding his clients of almost $65 billion in the biggest scandal in Wall Street history. Here are 5 things you didn’t know about Bernard “Bernie” Madoff...


Madoff Didn't Actually Steal $65 Billion His Ponzi scheme is often referred to as a $65 billion crime. In fact, he actually stole $20 billion in principal funds that were invested with him. However, his firm generated account statements telling investors that they earned returns making them worth a total of $65 billion. So as far as the people who'd entrusted their life savings with Madoff were concerned, they really did lose $65 billion. It's just that two-thirds of that money was a figment of Bernie's imagination.

Madoff Had Been Investigated Multiple Times by the SEC The Securities and Exchange Commission reportedly investigated Madoff eight times within a period of 15 years before it was discovered he was running a huge Ponzi scheme. As the investigation concluded, it was determined that Madoff had perpetrated the biggest financial fraud in American history, which cost investors almost $65 million. It was so concerning that Congress held hearings to determine how the scheme had gone on for so many years without being discovered.


He Was Sentenced to 150 Years in Prison The judge in the case, The Honorable Denny Chin, sentenced Madoff to 150 years, the longest sentence possible because his actions were “extraordinarily evil.” The long sentence was despite the probation office’s recommendation of one-third that number of years. Victims of Madoff’s fraudulent scheme testified in the trial, and their stories of hardships caused by their lost investments may have been part of the reason for the long sentence.

Famous People Were Among Those That Lost Money Actor John Malkovich lost his $2 million investment as well as Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick, who said they lost millions. Director Steven Spielberg lost money that contributed to his philanthropies. Elie Weisel, the Holocaust survivor and recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, said the funds for his nonprofit foundation were all invested through Madoff to the tune of more than $15 million.

Madoff’s Lawyer Applied for Compassionate Release for His Client in 2020 Madoff went to prison in 2009 after pleading guilty to 11 charges and was incarcerated at a federal prison near Butner, North Carolina. After his imprisonment, two of his sons died: one from suicide in 2010 and another from cancer in 2014. Late in 2013, Madoff himself suffered a heart attack and was diagnosed with advanced kidney disease. His lawyer applied for compassionate release in February 2020, saying that Madoff had a terminal illness and kidney failure and had been told he had only around 18 months to live.