NEW YORK — Convicted Ponzi scheme mastermind Bernard Madoff on Wednesday sought compassionate release from his 150-year prison term, saying he has terminal kidney failure and less than 18 months to live.
Madoff, held in federal custody since the months before his 2009 guilty plea to charges that he stole billions of dollars from celebrities, charities, financial funds, and average investors, was admitted to the comfort care unit of a Butner, North Carolina, prison in July for “end-stage renal disease,” attorney Brandon Sample wrote in a Manhattan federal court filing.
The disgraced 81-year-old ex-financier is confined to a wheelchair and suffers shortness of breath that requires him to get supplemental oxygen during nighttimes, Sample wrote.
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“The nature of Mr. Madoff’s serious medical conditions coupled with the effects of incarceration will only cause his overall physical condition to worsen as his illnesses progress and his death becomes ever more inevitable,” wrote Sample.
While stressing that Madoff doesn’t dispute “the severity of his crimes” or “seek to minimize the suffering of his victims,” the filing argued that the convicted scammer’s conditions meet the guidelines for compassionate release.
Sample filed the motion with the court after the U.S. Bureau of Prisons rejected the administrative request for relief Madoff filed in September 2019 in a ruling that said setting him free “would minimize the severity of his offense.”
The court that sentenced him represents Madoff’s last chance for end-of-life freedom, wrote Sample, who noted in the filing that Scotland granted Lockerbie bomber Abdel Baset Ali al-Megrahi compassionate release for his crimes after he developed terminal prostate cancer.
“When this court sentenced Bernard Madoff it was clear that Madoff’s 150-year prison sentence was symbolic for three reasons: retribution, deterrence, and for the victims,” the filing said. “This court must now consider whether keeping Madoff incarcerated, in light of his terminal kidney failure and a life expectancy of less than 18 months, is truly in furtherance of statutory sentencing goals and our society’s value and understanding of compassion.”
Madoff’s scheme collapsed in December 2008 as investors sought their money back amid the national financial crisis. They learned that instead of fulfilling the investments he promised, Madoff used money from some customers to pay others and siphoned off billions to provide unmerited gains to favored advisors and pay for his own life of wealth.
The scam totaled roughly $17.5 billion in all, making it one of the largest financial frauds in world history.
Madoff pleaded guilty in 2009 without standing trial and five of his former employees were convicted of aiding the scheme in 2014.
According to the Madoff Recovery Initiative website, www.madofftrustee.com, the court-appointed trustee has reached agreements or recovered approximately $14.328 billion as of Jan. 24, 2020.
Contributing: Kelly Tyko, USA TODAY