Fri, Dec 25, 2009 - Page 7 News List

Wall Street conman Madoff, 71, moved to prison’s hospital

AFP , NEW YORK

Wall Street conman Bernard Madoff has been moved to a prison hospital from his cell where he is serving a 150-year jail sentence, US prison authorities said on Wednesday.

Madoff, 71, was moved last Friday to the hospital in North Carolina’s Butner prison, where he has been held, Bureau of Prisons chief public information officer Traci Billingsley said.

“Madoff was moved within the complex from the medium [security facility] to the medical center in Butner on December 18,” Billingsley said, declining to cite reasons for the transfer.

“The potential reasons for an inmate’s transfer are numerous and we don’t release those specific reasons,” Billingsley said,

Prison authorities had rejected rumors a few weeks ago that Madoff was diagnosed with cancer.

As of several days ago, Madoff did not complain about any physical issues, according to an individual who spoke to Madoff but declined to be identified, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Butner is said to have among the best prison medical facilities and some experts believe Madoff may have been sent there because of his age.

Madoff was arrested in December last year and sentenced in June to 150 years in prison after pleading guilty to a multibillion dollar Ponzi scheme in which existing investors were paid returns stolen from new investors’ capital.

To the horror of thousands of investors, including major banks, Hollywood moguls and savvy financial players, Madoff, a former chairman of the NASDAQ stock market, admitted that for decades he had not been investing their money at all.

Instead, he had been shuffling the funds in an endless pyramid operation, using new victims’ contributions to pay phony interest to others and funding his own luxury lifestyle.

Madoff claimed to have been managing US$65 billion, but in October the court-appointed liquidator said the real bottom line was US$21.2 billion.

Victims are frantically trying to recoup losses. While some were wealthy investors, others had given their entire savings to a man reputed as the safest on Wall Street.

Aside from Madoff, his right hand man Frank DiPascali and his accountant David Friehling have pleaded guilty in an investigation that has yet to fully unravel the crime or compensate the approximately 16,000 direct victims.

They both face life in prison but have said they will cooperate with investigators, which could result in a lighter sentence.

The USA Today daily reported earlier this month that only 1,487 direct investors — less than 10 percent of the total — have received reimbursement from the Securities Protection Investor Corp, a company set up by Congress to help such victims.

The trustee, Irving Picard, hopes to expand the compensation pool by scraping up money from people he says benefited unfairly from the scheme, including many who have not been charged with complicity.

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