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Ponzi scheme king Bernie Madoff, who bilked investors out of billions, seeks medical release from prison

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The New York Times
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The man convicted of the greatest Ponzi scheme in modern American history, guilty of bilking thousands of investors in 49 states and more than 120 countries, is asking a judge to release him from a life sentence so he can die outside prison walls.Bernie Madoff said he is in the end stages of kidney disease, must use a wheelchair and is in need of round-the-clock help. At 81, he is too old for a transplant, and he has been moved to palliative care within the Federal Medical Center prison in Butner, N.C. He is asking for compassionate release so he can die at home.In phone interviews with The Washington Post, Madoff expressed remorse for his massive fraud, in which he swindled investors out of billions, and said his dying wish is to salvage relationships with his grandchildren.He has served 11 years of the 150-year sentence he was given in 2009, after pleading guilty to 11 criminal counts, including fraud and money laundering.“I’m terminally ill,” Madoff said. Accordingly, in light of the nature and circumstances of his offense, his release at this time would minimize the severity of his offense.”The bureau, citing privacy reasons, declined a Post request to comment on Madoff’s case.Congress established compassionate release to reflect its desire for ethical and humane treatment of prisoners with the burden on taxpayers for the rising cost of in-prison medical care. He said that he has pain and cramping in his thighs, hips and knees and that he rarely sleeps more than an hour at a time, often waking from leg cramps.Prison records indicate that Madoff is Care Level 4, defined as “functioning may be so severely impaired as to require 24-hour skilled nursing care or nursing assistance.”It costs about $59,000 a year to house someone at a federal prison medical center, according to the Justice Department inspector general’s report. The low number of approvals prompted Congress to draft the First Step Act, a broad prison and sentencing reform law that, in addition to providing a way for prisoners to appeal denials, shortened sentences for drug crimes, boosted the number of credits for good behavior, pledged improvements to job-training courses and resulted in the early release of more than 3,000 federal prisoners.Considered the most significant prison rehabilitation law in more than a decade, the First Step Act was highlighted by President Trump in his State of the Union address Tuesday.But the law has also been criticized by some conservatives who say its leniency was misguided and opened the door for notorious criminals such as Madoff to be released.At least 124 people were granted compassionate release in 2019, the first full year of the First Step Act, according to the Justice Department, compared with 34 in all of 2018.Among those to benefit from the law was Bernard Ebbers, the former chief executive of WorldCom, a telecom giant once valued at more than $150 billion.Ebbers was convicted in 2005 of securities fraud for falsifying the company’s financial results and inflating the stock’s worth. Millions of dollars in shareholder and investment stocks and bond values were lost, including $565 million from the country’s largest public pension fund, the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.Ebbers was in the middle of a 25-year federal sentence when his daughters began to notice their 6-foot-4 father wither and slip into dementia.In August 2019, Joy Ebbers Bourne said, the Bureau of Prisons denied Ebbers’s application for compassionate release.

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