The sentence effectively guarantees the 71-year-old Madoff will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Madoff's defense lawyers sought 12 years behind bars, while prosecutors asked that he spend the rest of his life in prison, suggesting the maximum sentence of 150 years on the 11 charges that included including securities fraud and money laundering.
Madoff, who wore a dark suit, listened as emotional witnesses described how he ruined their financial security, and they urged U.S. District Judge Denny Chin to send him to prison for life.
"Life has been a living hell. It feels like the nightmare we can't wake from," victim Carla Hirshhorn said, according to the Associated Press.
"He stole from the rich. He stole from the poor. He stole from the in between. He had no values," said Tom Fitzmaurice. "He cheated his victims out of their money so he and his wife Ruth could live a life of luxury beyond belief."
PBS' Nightly Business Report interviewed Madoff victim Stephanie Halio last week. You can hear her story here.
Several hundred spectators arrived at federal court in New York to witness the sentencing.
Madoff ran a classic Ponzi scheme in which early investors were paid with deposits of newer ones, but the scheme collapsed in the faltering economy last year. He was arrested in December after his two sons told authorities he had confessed to them.
Authorities say he pulled his sons aside and told them it was "all just one big lie."
The case had led to calls for tighter regulation of money managers. The Securities and Exchange Commission has been severely criticized for failing to uncover Madoff's scheme despite warnings that he was running a fraud.
Judge Chin also entered a preliminary order of forfeiture Friday, according to Acting U.S. Attorney Lev Dassin. The order forces Madoff to give up his interests in all property, including real estate, investments, cars and boats.
According to earlier court documents, prosecutors reserved the right to pursue more than $170 billion in criminal forfeiture. That represents the total amount of money that could be connected to the fraud, not the amount stolen or lost.
The government also settled claims against Madoff's wife, according to Friday's order. Under the arrangement, the government obtained Ruth Madoff's interest in all property, including more than $80 million of property to which she had claimed was hers, prosecutors said.
The order makes it clear, though, that nothing precludes other departments or entities from seeking to recover additional funds
The agreements strip the Madoffs of all their interest in properties belonging to them, including homes in Manhattan, Montauk and Palm Beach, Fla., worth a total of nearly $22 million.
Before Madoff became a symbol of Wall Street greed, the former Nasdaq chairman had earned a reputation as a trusted money manager. Even as the market fluctuated, clients of his secretive investment advisory business enjoyed steady double-digit returns.