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Bernie Madoff made 24 cents an hour in a federal prison

Bernie Madoff: How he pulled it off
Bernie Madoff: How he pulled it off 05:13

By the time Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff died of kidney failure, the man who bilked unsuspecting people out of billions of dollars had accumulated a nest egg of just $710 for almost 3,000 hours of work as a prison orderly.

Madoff had served 12 years of a 150-year sentence in a federal prison in North Carolina when he died in prison at 82 in April. 

Details of Madoff's life behind bars were first reported by The City, an online not-for-profit news organization that obtained his Federal Bureau of Prisons file. According to the outlet's review of the documents, Madoff left behind a modest stockpile that included eight AAA batteries, four religious paperbacks, a Casio calculator, four packages of popcorn, a packet of ramen soup and a box of gefilte fish.

The disgraced financier first labored in a part of the prison devoted to educational programs, but asked to be transferred to the chapel area, The City noted. 

Madoff's work as an orderly mostly drew favorable reviews, but at one point a supervisor described him as "not very dependable" and stating he needed "closer supervision than most."

His attorney last year disclosed Madoff to be terminally ill with kidney disease and requested early release on compassionate grounds for his client. The request was denied. 

Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff dies in prison at... 00:25

For decades Madoff lived a life of luxury running Bernard L. Madoff Investment Security in New York, before being charged in 2008 with running a massive Ponzi scheme that involved using money from some investors to pay supposed profits to others. Madoff pleaded guilty the following year to 11 felonies. 

The Justice Department in December announced the Madoff Victim Fund had distributed $3.2 billion to nearly 37,000 people defrauded by Madoff. The tally represented more than 80% of his victims' losses. 

Madoff was born in 1938 in a lower-middle-class Jewish neighborhood in Queens, New York. In the financial world, the story of his spectacular rise to prominence — how he left for Wall Street with his brother Peter in 1960 with a few thousand dollars saved from working as a lifeguard and installing sprinklers — became legend.

Madoff helped launch the Nasdaq, the first electronic stock exchange, and advised the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on the system. But what the agency never found out was that behind the scenes, in a separate office kept under lock and key, Madoff was secretly spinning a web of phantom wealth by using cash from new investors to pay returns to old ones on a massive scale not seen since the days of Charles Ponzi.

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