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Madoff begins 150-year sentence

Wed., July 15, 2009

Inmates given menial jobs at North Carolina prison

BUTNER, N.C. – Bernard Madoff’s life of luxury is a thing of the past.

The disgraced financier blamed for what is believed to be the largest Ponzi scheme in history arrived Tuesday at a federal prison in North Carolina to begin a 150-year sentence in a cell with two bunk beds, a toilet and a sink.

Madoff – also known now as prisoner number 61727-054 – arrived somewhat under cover at the Butner Federal Correctional Complex about 45 miles northwest of Raleigh. Onlookers said a bus backed into the entrance, then a sport utility vehicle pulled in front of it, blocking photographers and TV cameras trying to get a glimpse.

A prison official said he would be treated like any other inmate. If so, Madoff can plan to work seven-hour days on jobs like painting, plumbing and groundskeeping. There’s also no Internet access, televisions in common rooms only, and limited recreation time.

Madoff will be held in one of two medium-security facilities, and will likely have a cell mate who could be a convict sentenced for a similar white-collar crime or something violent.

“I wouldn’t describe any of the facilities here as a nice place,” Butner spokesman Greg Norton said.

Madoff pleaded guilty in March to charges that his investment advisory business was a multibillion-dollar scheme that wiped out thousands of investors and ruined charities.

Authorities said Madoff had carried out the fraud for at least two decades before confessing to his sons in December that his investment business was a fraud and that he had lost as much as $50 billion.

Within the federal prison system, Butner is perhaps best known for its hospital facility to treat elderly or ill prisoners. The prison’s Web site said its medical center housed nearly 970 of the facility’s total inmate population of 4,800 last week.

Other inmates being held at Butner include Omar Abdel-Rahman, also known as the blind sheik, who was sentenced to life in prison in 1995 for his role in a plot to kill Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and blow up New York City landmarks, including the United Nations. John Rigas, founder of Adelphia Communications, and his son, Tim, the company’s chief financial officer are also at Butner. They were convicted on multiple charges of securities fraud, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and bank fraud.

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