What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

The rise and fall of ponzi scheme mastermind Bernie Madoff

Former financier Bernie Madoff, who organized the largest fraud in wall street's history, died Wednesday. He swindled major charities, universities and celebrities out of billions, and was serving 150 years in prison. Stephanie Sy has our report about his rise and fall.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And Bernie Madoff, who organized the largest fraud in Wall Street's history, died early today.

    Stephanie Sy has our report.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    The scope of the scam shocked the world.

  • Woman:

    This is one of the biggest fraud schemes ever.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    The victims numbered in the tens of thousands. Their losses were recently estimated at between $17 billion and $20 billion. The man behind the con, financier Bernie Madoff.

    He rose through the ranks of Wall Street riding the image of a self-made financial guru, eventually becoming the chairman of the Nasdaq Stock Exchange. The ruse was in full swing in the 1990s, made off fabricated profits, attracting new investors, while paying bigger returns to old ones, the biggest Ponzi scheme ever.

    He swindled major charities, universities, and celebrities. As of last year, about three-quarters of the cash, some $14 billion, had been recovered by a court-appointed trustee and returned to victims.

    Journalist Diana Henriques, author of "Wizard of Lies," told "NewsHour"'s Jeffrey Brown in 2011 how Madoff pulled off such massive deceit.

  • Diana Henriques:

    So you would never doubt your judgment about trusting Madoff, because Madoff made you feel like you were a genius, too. He had that magic. It really is amazing.

  • Stephanie Sy:

    But in 2008, his magic was revealed for what it really was, one big lie. His own sons turned him in.

  • Question:

    What do you have to say to the public?

  • Stephanie Sy:

    In March 2009, he pleaded guilty to securities fraud and other charges and was sentenced to 150 years in prison. Bernie Madoff died today in prison in Butner, North Carolina. He'd been battling the final stages of kidney disease.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Stephanie Sy.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Bernie Madoff was 82 years old.

Listen to this Segment