Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff dies in prison at 82

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AP2009

FILE - Bernard Madoff exits Manhattan federal court, Tuesday, March 10, 2009, in New York. Madoff, the financier who pleaded guilty to orchestrating the largest Ponzi scheme in history, died early Wednesday, April 14, 2021, in a federal prison, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press. (AP Photo/ Louis Lanzano, File)

NEW YORK – Bernard Madoff, the infamous architect of an epic securities swindle that burned thousands of investors, outfoxed regulators and earned him a 150-year prison term, died behind bars early Wednesday. He was 82.

Madoff's death at the Federal Medical Center in Butner, North Carolina, was confirmed by his lawyer and the Bureau of Prisons.

Last year, Madoff's lawyers unsuccessfully asked a court to release him from prison during the coronavirus pandemic, saying he suffered from end-stage renal disease and other chronic medical conditions.

One of those lawyers, Brandon Sample, said on Wednesday it was believed Madoff died from natural causes related to his failing health.

For decades, Madoff enjoyed an image as a self-made financial guru whose Midas touch defied market fluctuations. A former chairman of the Nasdaq stock market, he attracted a devoted legion of investment clients — from Florida retirees to celebrities such as film director Steven Spielberg, actor Kevin Bacon and Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax.

But his investment advisory business was exposed in 2008 as a Ponzi scheme that wiped out people’s fortunes and ruined charities. He became so hated he wore a bulletproof vest to court.

The fraud was believed to be the largest in Wall Street's history.

Over the years, court-appointed trustees laboring to unwind the scheme have recovered more than $14 billion of an estimated $17.5 billion investors put into Madoff’s business. At the time of Madoff’s arrest, fake account statements were telling clients they had holdings worth $60 billion.