Donald Trump

Bernard Madoff Asks Trump to Reduce His Prison Sentence for Massive Ponzi Scheme

Madoff is not asking for a pardon from the president

What to Know

  • Notorious Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff has filed a petition with the Justice Department asking for clemency from President Donald Trump
  • Madoff, 81, currently is serving a 150-year sentence in a federal prison for orchestrating the largest Ponzi scheme in history
  • Madoff is asking that his sentence be commuted by Trump, meaning that he would be released from prison. He is not requesting a pardon

Notorious Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff has filed a petition with the Justice Department asking that President Donald Trump reduce his 150-year prison sentence. 

Madoff, 81, currently is serving that sentence in a federal prison in Butner, North Carolina, for orchestrating the largest Ponzi scheme in history. His decades-long scam conducted while heading Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities in New York City swindled thousands of investors out of billions of dollars.

Madoff, who pleaded guilty to 11 crimes in 2009, is not asking for a pardon from the president.

Instead, he is requesting clemency from Trump in the form of a sentence commutation, or reduction, according to information on the Justice Department’s web site.

A search of that site shows that Madoff’s clemency request is “pending.”

The Justice Department would not reveal when Madoff’s request was submitted, but noted that such an application takes between one to three months to appear on the clemency section of the web site.

It is not known if Trump will consider the request, or when he might do so. 

Madoff’s former lawyer, Ira Lee Sorkin, told CNBC he had no information about the request. 

The White House referred questions about Madoff’s bid for clemency to the Justice Department.

Madoff’s former longtime secretary also is asking Trump for a commutation of her six-year prison term for helping facilitate the Ponzi scheme, according to the Justice Department’s web page.

In January, a federal judge rejected a separate request to the judge by that secretary Annette Bongiorno, 70, to be released into home confinement. Bongiorno has served nearly four-and-a-half years of her prison sentence in a federal facility in New York state.

Peter Madoff, Bernard’s younger brother, pleaded guilty in 2012 to falsifying records at the Madoff investment firm, and to conspiracy to commit securities fraud. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, and is due to be released in October 2020. 

There is no record of a clemency petition from Peter Madoff on the Justice Department’s web site. 

Bernard Madoff’s wife Ruth in May agreed to pay $594,000 and to surrender her remaining assets when she dies as part of a settlement of claims by Irvin Picard, the court-appointed trustee who for years has tried to recoup money for Madoff’s customers. Ruth Madoff was never charged in connection with her husband’s crimes. 

Picard as of last November had recovered more than $13.3 billion of the approximately $17.5 billion of claims by customers who say they were swindled by Madoff’s scheme.

Madoff’s sons both died since he was locked up. His oldest son, Mark, hanged himself in December 2010, on the second anniversary of his father’s confession to the Madoff family of his crimes. 

Madoff’s other son, Andrew, died in 2014 after a long battle with a rare form of cancer.

Neither Andrew nor Mark were ever charged in connection with their father’s crimes.

But Picard reached settlements with both sons’ estates and related defendants totaling more than $23 million in 2017.

Justice Department statistics show that the department received 1,003 petitions for pardons and another 5,657 for sentence commutations that could have been considered by Trump since he was in the White House. Trump has granted 10 pardons and four commutations.

Additional reporting by CNBC’s Kevin Breuninger.

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