Bernie Madoff got 150 years in prison Monday, but it’s not what he deserved. Federal sentencing guidelines wouldn’t allow any more prison time for Madoff’s crime, and it’s against the law to simply turn someone over to those he has victimized.
Even so, there were cheers from some of Madoff’s former clients when a federal judge sentenced him to 150 years in the slammer for bilking thousands out of $50 billion over a 20-year period — slightly more than the 12 years his lawyer requested in a hopeless bid for leniency.
Certainly, Madoff is the poster example of criminal greed on Wall Street. That he wasn’t caught until last year has prompted calls for greater regulation. That’s understandable, but it’s impossible to devise a fool-proof regulatory system to trap rats like Bernard Madoff. Blind spots in the system should be fixed, but ultimately one of the biggest deterrents to another Madoff is Madoff: his punishment, his shame, his wrecked life. Swindlers and con men will always be around the money. Every now and then they get caught.