Bernard Madoff’s life of luxury is a thing of the past.
The disgraced financier blamed for what is believed to be the largest Ponzi scheme in history arrived on Tuesday at a federal prison in North Carolina to begin a 150-year sentence in a cell with two bunk beds, a toilet and a sink.
Madoff — now also known as prisoner number 61727-054 — arrived somewhat undercover at the Butner Federal Correctional Complex about 72km northwest of Raleigh. Onlookers said a bus backed into the entrance, then a sport utility vehicle pulled in front of it, blocking photographers and TV cameras trying to get a glimpse.
A prison official said he would be treated like any other inmate.
If so, Madoff can plan to work seven-hour days on jobs like painting, plumbing and groundskeeping. There is no Internet access, televisions are in common rooms only and recreation time is limited.
Madoff will be held in one of two medium-security facilities and will likely have a cellmate, who could be a convict sentenced for a similar white-collar crime or for something violent.
“I wouldn’t describe any of the facilities here as a nice place,” Butner spokesman Greg Norton said.
Madoff pleaded guilty in March to charges that his investment advisory business was a multibillion-dollar scheme that wiped out thousands of investors and ruined charities. His Ponzi scheme was stunning for its size and duration.
In a Ponzi scheme, early investors are paid by diverting money from new investors. When the flow of new money dries up, the scheme collapses and the fraud is exposed.
Authorities said Madoff had carried out the fraud for at least two decades before confessing to his sons in December that his investment business was a fraud and that he had lost as much as US$50 billion.
A consultant who advises convicts on what to expect behind bars said it would be hard for officials to treat Madoff like other inmates.
“He’s a special case,” said Larry Levine of Wall Street Prison Consultants. “We’ve never had anyone steal this much money before. He’s one of the most hated people in the United States.”