Bernie Madoff denied prison release in fraud case

Bernard L. Madoff leaves US Federal Court January 14, 2009.

Timothy A. Clary | Getty Images

A federal judge Thursday denied notorious Ponzi scheme fraudster Bernie Madoff compassionate release from a 150-year prison sentence despite Madoff’s argument that he is dying from kidney disease.

Judge Denny Chin’s ruling rejecting the release request noted that Madoff committed “one of the most egregious financial crimes of all time,” one that “many people are still suffering from.”

Chin’s decision came four months after the 82-year-old Madoff, who orchestrated the largest Ponzi scheme in history at his self-named Manhattan investment firm, said in a court filing that he had less than 18 months to live, and asked to be set free to spend his remaining days living with a friend.

Madoff pleaded guilty in 2009 to 11 crimes related swindling of billions of dollars from thousands on investors. He is currently being held at a federal medical facilty in North Carolina.

Chin in his ruling detailed the massive scope of Madoff’s crimes, the approximately 500 letters from victims that opposed  his releas and the judge’s own belief that “Mr. Madoff was never truly remorseful” for his decades-long fraud.

“When I sentenced Mr. Madoff in 2009, it was fully my intent that he live out the rest of his life in prison. His lawyers asked then for a sentence of 12 to 15 to 20 years, specifically with the hope that Mr. Madoff would live to see “the light of day,’ ” Chin wrote in his ruling in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

“I was not persuaded; I did not believe that Mr. Madoff was deserving of that hope. Nothing has happened in the 11 years since to change my thinking.”

“While Mr. Madoff’s present medical situation is most unfortunate, compassionate release is not warranted,” said Chin, who  like other federal judges in 2018 was granted the power to release federal inmates on health grounds under The First Step Act.

Madoff still is pursuing a request that President Donald Trump commute his sentence. 

His lawyer Bernard Sample, in a statement to CNBC, said that Chin “recognized today that Madoff’s health is in serious decline and that he is, in fact, terminally ill.”

“Nonetheless, Judge Chin essentially found that because of the nature of Madoff’s crimes — Madoff is beyond redemption,” the lawyer said.

“We are disappointed with Judge Chin’s refusal to grant Madoff any compassion,” Sample said.

The attorney added, “Our only hope now is that President Trump will show mercy to Madoff by granting a sentence commutation. We implore the president to personally consider Madoff’s rapidly declining health. President Trump, through his leadership on the First Step Act, has demonstrated his commitment to mercy and redemption.”

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which prosecuted Madoff, declined to comment on the decision.

Sample in February had said that the U.S. Bureau of Prisons recognized that Madoff “meets the criteria for a reduction of sentence based on his end-stage renal disease,” but that the agency denied his request for compassionate release.

The BOP said in its denial letter on Dec. 5 that, “in light of the nature and circumstances of his offense, his release at this time would minimize the severity of his offense.”

– Additional reporting by Scott Cohn 

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