March 12, 2009 / 4:22 PM / 9 years ago

Madoff goes from penthouse to penitentiary

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Multimillionaire swindler Bernard Madoff is leaving the luxury of his Manhattan penthouse to become just another inmate in a crowded jail.

Madoff’s new surroundings at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC), across from the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan, will be a far cry from the opulent lifestyle to which he has been long accustomed.

The 70-year-old former Nasdaq chairman who pleaded guilty to fraud on Thursday in one of the largest Ponzi schemes in history, will likely share an 8-foot-by-7-1/2-foot cell with another inmate while he awaits sentencing, scheduled for June 16 by Judge Denny Chin.

“MCC is incredibly secure, tightly maintained and a tough place to be,” said Daniel Richman, a former federal prosecutor and now a Columbia University law professor.

The drab multilevel MCC holds about 750 men and women inmates in concrete block cells. Each cell has a bunk bed, a toilet and a desk with a built-in chair, said Scott Sussman, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

“Since no one at the MCC is intended to be there for a long time, none of the efforts to engage inmates’ attention are there,” Richman said. “There are very little recreational facilities, very little personal enrichment opportunities.”

The jail holds defendants accused of a full gamut of crimes, including murder, rape and terrorism, before their trials or after they are convicted and await transfer to another facility.

Inmates at the MCC are awakened at 6 a.m. and lights out is at 11 p.m. They are allowed onto the rooftop recreational area for one hour every other day, according to prison regulations.

Visits for pretrial inmates are limited to up to three hours per week and visiting rooms are monitored by guards. The number of visitors is limited to three adults and three children.

Madoff was arrested on December 11. He was permitted until Thursday to stay out of jail on $10 million bond under house arrest and 24-hour surveillance.

He and his wife, Ruth, live in a Manhattan apartment valued at more than $7 million. They also own several other properties each valued at several million dollars in New York, Florida and France, according to court documents. They also own four boats and three cars, papers filed by his lawyer said.

Other infamous defendants have passed through the MCC, including Saudi Arabian financier Adnan Khashoggi, who was charged in 1989 with aiding former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos in a massive real estate fraud.

In the 1990s, various people accused or convicted for their role in bombings or bomb plots on key New York buildings, including Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, the fiery Egyptian cleric, were detained in the facility.

Additional reporting by Martha Graybow; Editing by Brian Moss

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