Last updated: June 29, 2009 12:52 pm

Madoff prepares to learn his sentence

His victims have called him a “monster” and a “devil” and want him jailed for the rest of his life. On Monday, Bernard Madoff, architect of the world’s biggest financial fraud, a $65bn “Ponzi” scheme that ruined thousands of investors, will learn his fate.

Prosecutors are demanding a prison sentence of up to 150 years. The hearing in a Manhattan federal courthouse is likely to be crowded and emotional. Hundreds of people are expected to turn up. A handful of victims will be allowed their say, as will Mr Madoff.

Wearing his own clothes instead of prison dress, Mr Madoff will use the hearing to address “the shame he has felt” and “the pain he has caused”, according to his lawyer Ira Sorkin. He has argued that 12 years – half as much time as was handed out to other high-profile white-collar criminals including former chief executives of WorldCom and Enron – would be sufficient punishment.

Mr Madoff’s victims, though, have urged Denny Chin, the judge, to give the former broker, 71, the harshest sentence possible.

Investor Gerald Corwin wrote in a letter: “I would like to see him, and anybody else involved in this scam, convicted and sentence[d] to at least 100 years behind bars without any chance of parole! White collar criminals think they are above the law but they are not! Send Bernie by-by [sic] for a long time.”

Richard Shapiro, another investor, wrote: “Upon learning what Madoff really was on December 11, I went into a deep depression . . .  lost 30 pounds, could not swallow food and lived in fear that my wife and children would be left penniless.”

“We now have nothing,” wrote Kathleen Bignell. “Only living off social security. I told my father, 89, he could not die because I didn’t have enough money to bury him.”

Legal experts expect Mr Madoff to die behind bars. The length of his sentence could also determine whether he goes to a maximum security jail or a less draconian institution.

If Mr Madoff receives 30 years or more, he may be housed in a maximum security penitentiary, said Jack Cooney, an attorney at McKool Smith in New York.

There, he would serve time alongside murderers, rapists and career criminals deemed a major security threat. He would be housed in a cell and his movements would be tightly controlled.

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