Watch CBSN Live

Madoff Slammed With 150-Year Sentence

Last Updated 6:34 p.m. EDT

Bernard Madoff, the former Wall Street financier that pleaded guilty to defrauding clients out of billions in an unprecedented Ponzi scheme, was sentenced to 150 years in prison Monday.

Applause broke out in the crowded Manhattan courtroom after U.S. District Judge Denny Chin issued the maximum sentence to the 71-year-old defendant, who said he sought no forgiveness and knew he must live "with this pain, this torment, for the rest of my life."

Chin rejected a request by Madoff's lawyer for leniency and said he disagreed that victims of the fraud were seeking mob vengeance.

"Here the message must be sent that Mr. Madoff's crimes were extraordinarily evil and that this kind of manipulation of the system is not just a bloodless crime that takes place on paper, but one instead that takes a staggering toll," Chin said.

Transcript of Madoff sentencing

The judge said the estimate that Madoff has cost his victims more than $13 billion was conservative because it did not include money from feeder funds.

"Objectively speaking, the fraud here was staggering," he said.

Before Chin announced the sentence, Madoff, wearing a dark suit, white shirt and a tie, apologized to the victims and his family.

"I cannot offer you an excuse for my behavior," he said. "How do you excuse lying to your brother and your two sons? How do you excuse lying and deceiving a wife who stood by you for fifty years and still does?"

"I have left a legacy of shame to my family and grandchildren," he added.

Madoff repeated earlier statements that he thought he would be able to get out the scheme once started but could not.

"The harder I tried, the deeper I dug myself into a hole," he said.

At one point during his statement, Madoff turned to the victims present and said: "I am sorry."

Madoff also expects "to live out his years in prison," his lawyer said.

He also sat and listened as emotional witnesses described how he spoiled their security. One called him a "beast" and another a "psychopath," reports CBS News chief investigative reporter Armen Keteyian. Another stated: "I only hope his prison sentence is long enough that his jail cell becomes his coffin."

After the sentencing, outside the court victims had mixed reactions, reports Keteyian.

"I'm left with fear," said Miriam Siegman.

"He's an equal opportunity destroyer," said Cheryl Weinstein.

Said Maureen Ebel: "I think justice was done today for Mr. Madoff."

Keteyian reports that 91-year-old Ian Thiermann, who had to take a job at a grocery store in California after losing $700,000 to Madoff, had this reaction: "It maybe makes some people feel better; it doesn't make me feel one ounce better."

Madoff's lawyers had asked the judge for a 12-year sentence and the federal probation office recommended 50 years.

After the sentencing, Bernard Madoff's wife Ruth broker her silence, saying in a statement that she feels "betrayed and confused" by her husband's multibillion fraud scheme.

Complete Bernard Madoff coverage:

Madoff Sentenced To 150 Years In Prison
Ruth Madoff: "Embarrassed And Ashamed"
Madoff's Fraud: All In The Family?
Transcript of Madoff Sentencing
Analysis: 150-Year Sentence "Grossly Unfair"
Court Sketches: Madoff Sentencing

The severity of the sentence caught some experts off guard.

"I am shocked by this ruling-- and I suspect that many legal experts are as well," said CBS News legal analyst Andrew Cohen. "The sentence is completely disproportionate to what other major white-collar criminals had received in recent years in fraud cases and I'm not sure that the level of the fraud, even the scope of it, justifies that."

"I think it's more symbolic than anything else because as a practical matter Madoff was going to die in prison anyway whether he got 50 years or 100 or 150 or even 25. Clearly the judge wanted to send a message to other would-be swindlers out there and also to recognize the enormity of the crime."

It will be interesting "whether his attorneys appeal this harsh sentence on grounds that it violates their client's constitutional rights to be protected from disproportionate punishment," Cohen said.

The jailed Madoff already has taken a severe financial hit: Last week, a judge issued a preliminary $171 billion forfeiture order stripping Madoff of all his personal property, including real estate, investments, and $80 million in assets his wife Ruth had claimed were hers. The order left her with $2.5 million.

The terms require the Madoffs to sell a $7 million Manhattan apartment where Ruth Madoff still lives. An $11 million estate in Palm Beach, Fla., a $4 million home in Montauk and a $2.2 million boat will be put on the market as well.

Before Madoff became a symbol of Wall Street greed, he had earned a reputation as a trusted money manager with a Midas touch. Even as the market fluctuated, clients of his secretive investment advisory business - from Florida retirees to celebrities such as Steven Spielberg, actor Kevin Bacon and Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax - for decades enjoyed steady double-digit returns.

But late last year, Madoff made a dramatic confession: Authorities say he pulled his sons aside and told them it was "all just one big lie."

Madoff pleaded guilty in March to securities fraud and other charges, saying he was "deeply sorry and ashamed." He insisted that he acted alone, describing a separate wholesale stock-trading firm run by his sons and brother as honest and legitimate.

Aside from an accountant accused of cooking Madoff's books, no one else has been criminally charged. But the family, including his wife, and brokerage firms who recruited investors have come under intense scrutiny by the FBI, regulators and a court-appointed trustee overseeing the liquidation of Madoff's assets.

The trustee and prosecutors have sought to go after assets to compensate thousands of burned victims who have filed claims against Madoff. How much is available to pay them remains unknown, though it's expected to be only a fraction of the astronomical losses associated with the fraud.

The $171 billion forfeiture figure used by prosecutors merely mirrors the amount they estimate that, over decades, "flowed into the principal account to perpetrate the Ponzi scheme." The statements sent to investors showing their accounts were worth as much as $65 billion were fiction.

The investigation has found that in reality, Madoff never made any investments, instead using the money from new investors to pay returns to existing clients - and to finance a lavish lifestyle for his family.

In bankruptcy filings, Trustee Irving Picard say family members "used customers accounts as though they were their own," putting Madoff's maid, boat captain and house-sitter in Florida on the company payroll and paying nearly $1 million in fees at high-end golf clubs on Long Island and in Florida.

Picard has sought to reclaim ill-gotten gains by freezing Madoff's business bank accounts and selling legitimate portions of his firm. (Its season tickets for the Mets went for $38,100.) He's also sued big money managers and investors for billions of dollars, claiming they were Madoff cronies who also cashed in on the fraud.

The defendants include leading philanthropists Stanley Chais and Jeffry Picower - from whom Picard is seeking at least $5.1 billion alleged to have come out of victims' pockets - and hedge fund manager J. Ezra Merkin. All have denied any wrongdoing.

View CBS News In