The international fraudster Bernard Madoff was jailed for the rest of his life today for swindling investors out of billions of dollars.
The 71-year-old was sentenced to 150 years after he, 10 of his victims and lawyers on both sides had addressed the court.
Dozens of those who lost fortunes in his pyramid-based Ponzi investment fraud that lasted decades filled the New York courthouse having spent hours queueing to get seats.
Madoff, a former Nasdaq chairman, pleaded guilty to securities fraud and other charges in March and has since been held in jail.
Victims who lost millions of dollars had described their ruined lives to judge Denny Chin.
Madoff, wearing a dark suit, white shirt and a tie, sat and listened as they described how he wrecked their financial security, and urged he be sent to prison for life.
"Life has been a living hell. It feels like the nightmare we can't wake from," said Carla Hirshhorn.
"He stole from the rich. He stole from the poor. He stole from the in between. He had no values," said Tom Fitzmaurice. "He cheated his victims out of their money so he and his wife Ruth could live a life of luxury beyond belief."
Dominic Ambrosino called it an "indescribably heinous crime" and urged a long prison sentence so "will know he is imprisoned in much the same way he imprisoned us and others." He added: "In a sense, I would like somebody in the court today to tell me how long is my sentence."
Madoff's lawyer had asked a judge to give his client 12 years behind bars. Prosecutors sought the maximum 150-year term.
Madoff has already has taken a severe financial hit: Last week, a judge issued a preliminary 171 billion dollar forfeiture order stripping him of all his personal property, including real estate, investments, and 80 million dollars in assets his wife Ruth had claimed were hers. The order left her with 2.5 million dollars.
The terms require the Madoffs to sell a 7 million dollar Manhattan apartment where Ruth Madoff still lives. An 11 million dollar estate in Palm Beach, a 4 million dollar home in Montauk and a 2.2 million dollar boat will be put on the market as well.
Before Madoff became a symbol of Wall Street greed, he had earned a reputation as a trusted money manager with a Midas touch. Even as the market fluctuated, clients of his secretive investment advisory business - from Florida retirees to celebrities such as Steven Spielberg, actor Kevin Bacon and Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax - for decades enjoyed steady double-digit returns.
But late last year, Madoff made a dramatic confession: Authorities say he pulled his sons aside and told them it was "all just one big lie." In reality, Madoff never made any investments, instead using the money from new investors to pay returns to existing clients - and to finance a lavish lifestyle for his family.