U.S. District Judge Denny Chin cited the unprecedented nature of the multibillion-dollar fraud as he sentenced Madoff to the maximum of 150 years in prison, a term comparable only to those given in the past to terrorists, traitors and the most violent criminals. There is no parole in federal prison so Madoff will most likely die there.
"Here, the message must be sent that Mr. Madoff's crimes were extraordinarily evil and that this kind of irresponsible manipulation of the system is not merely a bloodless financial crime that takes place just on paper, but it is instead ... one that takes a staggering human toll," Chin said.
The massive pyramid scheme run by Madoff since at least the early 1990s demolished the life savings of thousands of people, wrecked charities and shook confidence in the U.S. financial system.
Only Madoff and an accountant accused of failing to make basic auditing checks have faced criminal charges. But a person familiar with the investigation said at least 10 more people are likely to face federal charges.
The person, who spoke on condition of anonymity, wouldn't detail the likely charges against the others or say whether they would include Madoff's family or former employees.
Madoff's 150-year sentence reflected a growing tendency over the last decade to give white-collar criminals lengthy prison terms - although a handful of cases have received even longer terms. The outcome prompted scattered applause and whoops from a group of burned former clients in a packed Manhattan courtroom.
The judge noted that not one of the more than 100 letters he received supported Madoff or described any good deeds he had done. "The absence of such support is telling," Chin said.
Chin announced the sentence with Madoff standing at the defense table, wearing a dark suit, a white shirt and a tie and looking thinner than he did at his last court appearance in March. He gave no noticeable reaction when the sentence was announced.
He also showed no emotion though he looked down earlier in the hearing as he listened to nine victims spend nearly an hour venting their despair and anger. Some openly wept or raised their voices, labeling Madoff a "monster," "a true beast" and an "evil low-life."
When asked by the judge whether he had anything to say, Madoff slowly stood, leaned forward on the defense table and spoke in a monotone for about 10 minutes. At various times, he referred to his monumental fraud as a "problem," "an error of judgment" and "a tragic mistake."