Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison in 2009 for running a pyramid-style scheme that defrauded tens of thousands of people around the world.

Bernard Madoff leaves Federal Court in New York, January 14, 2009.
Bernard Madoff leaves Federal Court in New York, January 14, 2009. (AP)

Bernard Madoff, who was convicted for running the largest known Ponzi scheme in history, has died in federal prison where he was serving a 150-year sentence, the Bureau of Prisons said.

Madoff died at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina early on Wednesday, apparently from natural causes, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. The person was not authorised to speak publicly and spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity.

Last year, Madoff's lawyers filed court papers to try to get the 82-year-old released from prison in the Covid-19 pandemic, saying he had suffered from end-stage renal disease and other chronic medical conditions.

The request was denied.

A criminal legacy

Madoff admitted swindling thousands of clients out of billions of dollars in investments over decades.

A court-appointed trustee has recovered more than $13 billion of an estimated $17.5 billion that investors put into Madoff’s business. At the time of Madoff's arrest, fake account statements were telling clients they had holdings worth $60 billion.

For decades, Madoff enjoyed an image as a self-made financial guru whose Midas touch defied market fluctuations. 

A former chairperson of the Nasdaq stock market, he attracted a devoted legion of investment clients – from Florida retirees to celebrities such as famed film director Steven Spielberg, actor Kevin Bacon and Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax.

But his investment advisory business was exposed in 2008 as a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme that wiped out people’s fortunes and ruined charities and foundations. He became so hated he had to wear a bulletproof vest to court.

Madoff pleaded guilty in March 2009 to securities fraud and other charges, saying he was “deeply sorry and ashamed.”

After several months living under house arrest at his $7 million Manhattan penthouse apartment, he was led off to jail in handcuffs to scattered applause from angry investors in the courtroom.

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

US District Judge Denny Chin showed no mercy, sentencing Madoff to the maximum 150 years in prison.

Both of Madoff's sons have died, Andrew from cancer at age 48 and Mark from suicide at age 46 in 2010.

He is survived by his wife, Ruth.

READ MORE: Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff wants to get out of prison

Source: TRTWorld and agencies