July 14, 2009 / 11:14 AM / 9 years ago

Madoff's prison life begins in North Carolina

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bernard Madoff’s prison life began on Tuesday, a long way from the luxury homes, sleek yachts and precious designer watches and clothes he accumulated in the years he ran Wall Street’s biggest investment fraud.

Bernard Madoff enters the Manhattan federal court house in New York, March 12, 2009. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Prison officials said the 71-year-old swindler checked into the Butner Federal Correctional Complex in North Carolina, where two other well-known white collar criminals, a convicted spy and a convicted bomb plotter are incarcerated.

The disgraced New York financier arrived on Tuesday morning in a prison van after being moved from a jail cell in his home city and then temporarily to a federal prison in Atlanta, a prisons spokeswoman said.

Federal Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Linda Thomas confirmed that the prison, 45 miles northwest of Raleigh, North Carolina, was Madoff’s final destination to serve the effective life sentence he received on June 29 for bilking thousands of investors from all walks of life.

A judge sentenced him to a total of 150 years on several criminal charges, including securities fraud, money laundering and perjury for a Ponzi scheme amounting to as much as $65 billion worldwide over about 20 years. A Ponzi scheme is one in which early investors are paid with money from new clients.

Madoff has spent the last four months in the Manhattan Correctional Center next door to the courthouse where he pleaded guilty in March. He was arrested by the FBI in December after confessing to his two sons that he was a fraud.

PRISON CLOTHES

At the 3,400-inmate prison, Madoff will wear prison-issued clothing, initially be in isolation and then have a cell mate, according to those who have served time in the U.S. system. He will earn pennies a day doing menial work.

Other white-collar criminals at Butner are former Adelphia Communications executives John Rigas, 84, due for release in 2018, and his 53-year-old son, Timothy, whose term ends in 2022, according to official records.

Jonathan Pollard, an American convicted of spying for Israel, is also housed at the facility, which has several levels of security. A blind Egyptian cleric, Omar Abdel-Rahman, was moved to Butner two years ago after being sentenced to life in 1995 for a plot to bomb New York landmarks and assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Once Madoff is settled into his new surroundings, his wife of 45 years, Ruth, will be allowed to visit him. The prison is an eight-hour drive from New York and it is not the one requested by his lawyer.

He had asked Madoff be sent a medium-security prison in Otisville, New York, about 70 miles northwest of New York City, but the bureau of prisons decides where convicts go.

On July 2, Ruth Madoff gave up the couple’s luxury $7 million Manhattan penthouse apartment and its valuable contents, with proceeds eventually going to defrauded investors.

Under an agreement with U.S. prosecutors, Ruth Madoff was allowed to keep $2.5 million in cash, but she and her husband were ordered to forfeit everything else they owned, including other homes, yachts and jewelry.

Reporting by Grant McCool; Editing by Derek Caney, Matt Daily, Matthew Lewis and Steve Orlofsky

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