Madoff customers swamp sentencing judge with letters
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two weeks before the sentencing of Bernard Madoff for his $65 billion swindle, the judge who will decide his fate has received more than 100 angry letters from defrauded investors suggesting his punishment.
"Due to his egregious deeds, Mr Madoff deserves no better than to live under a bridge in a cardboard box, scavenging for his food and clothing, living the existence which he has undoubtedly relegated some unfortunate victims to," Robert Mick said in a letter addressed to U.S. District Judge Denny Chin, who will sentence Madoff on June 29 in Manhattan federal court.
"Instead, he will be allowed to serve his sentence in the relative comfort of prison, being guaranteed food, shelter, clothing, medical care and treatment," Mick, 52 a former customer who lives in Florida, said in the letter dated June 2.
Victims ranging in age from their 30s to their 90s sent emails and letters to the judge and the prosecutors, describing themselves as middle-class people who were duped and lost their life savings and health care in the fraud.
Some wrote their "American Dream" had been shattered by Madoff and the so-called "feeder" funds and his associates who handed over their money to him.
The former trader, investment manager and nonexecutive chairman of the Nasdaq stock market, pleaded guilty on March 12 to criminal charges including securities fraud, money laundering and perjury and he was immediately jailed. He confessed to running a massive worldwide Ponzi scheme of as much as $65 billion over at least 20 years.
A Ponzi scheme is one in which early investors are paid with the money of new clients.
The maximum possible penalties on 11 criminal charges add up to a sentence of 150 years and at the age of 71, Madoff will in all likelihood spend the rest of his life in prison.
Madoff's lawyer, Ira Lee Sorkin, declined comment on the letters and emails.
"We will address them in our submissions to the court or at the time of sentencing," Sorkin said.
Defrauded investor Judith Welling of New York equated Madoff's crimes to those of murderers.
She said Madoff should be incarcerated for the maximum period "in a prison commensurate with his crimes, i.e. with other convicted murderers for that is the ultimate result of his crimes."
Shirley Stone, 87, wrote that she and her 92-year-old husband fell foul of Madoff. "If I could I would charge him with heart break, sadness and tears."
Several correspondents asked the judge if they may speak at the sentencing, including Sheryl Weinstein, who says in an email that she has personally known Madoff for 20 years and she is not among the "anonymous victims" who never met him.
"I think the personal connection may be more difficult for him to ignore. My family and I have lost everything. He knows who we are."
Others criticized the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for failing to uncover Madoff's scheme. Some complained about the Securities Investor Protection Corp overseeing the recovery and distribution of money to former customers.
A group called "Ponzi Victims Coalition" wrote letters to the United States Senate Finance Committee in recent months and sent copies to the judge and the Office of the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan investigating the fraud.
"He has destroyed us and the public needs to see that this could happen to anybody," Carla Hirschhorn wrote in capital letters to the judge in an email on June 2. "We are not wealthy, fancy people. Never were, never will be."
The case is USA V Madoff 09-213 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan)
(Reporting by Grant McCool)
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