February 8, 2009 / 2:51 AM / 10 years ago

Sharpton calls for justice outside Madoff's home

Reverend Al Sharpton participates in a protest outside the home of Bernard Madoff in New York February 7, 2009. Madoff, who was arrested by U.S. authorities in December, is accused of running a long-standing Ponzi scheme, illegally taking money from new investors to pay existing investors. Madoff has estimated losses of $50 billion from the alleged scheme, U.S. authorities say. REUTERS/Chip East

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Saying Bernard Madoff enjoys a “gilded penthouse incarceration,” civil rights activist Al Sharpton led a rally outside the accused swindler’s Manhattan home on Saturday urging equal justice for the rich and poor.

Sharpton and about 30 other demonstrators protested that Madoff was being allowed to remain free pending trial while poor people with no access to top legal representation languished in prison for relatively minor infractions.

“There must be one standard for all, and not one based on income,” Sharpton said at the protest on Manhattan’s affluent Upper East Side.

He added that Madoff, who is under house arrest, was experiencing “a kind of gilded penthouse incarceration.”

Madoff, 70, was arrested on December 11 in connection with what authorities have described as the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. In a Ponzi scheme, early investors are paid with money from new investors.

According to prosecutors, Madoff has confessed that his money management business was “one big lie” and had racked up losses of as much as $50 billion.

It was not known whether Madoff saw the rally taking place on the street below his penthouse.

Madoff is under 24-hour surveillance in his apartment as a condition of his $10 million bail agreement. Under his bail terms, Madoff must wear an electronic monitor and is only allowed to leave his apartment for court appearances.

A federal judge last month rejected a government appeal to send him to jail.

Writing by Chris Michaud; Editing by Peter Cooney

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