Senator asks AG Barr to deny early prison release for Bernie Madoff

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Senator John Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana.

Andrew Harrer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., on Monday asked Attorney General William Barr to deny requests from infamous Ponzi schemers Bernie Madoff and R. Allen Stanford for early prison release due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Releasing either of these individuals, or anyone similarly situated, would be an affront to those affected by their evil schemes, and a complete failure in the administration of justice,” Kennedy wrote in a letter to Barr.

The coronavirus has swept through the U.S. prison system, infecting thousands of inmates and guards. In federal facilities, 495 inmates and 309 staff have tested positive for Covid-19, according to the Bureau of Prisons. Twenty-two federal inmates have died from the virus, the BOP says.

Barr in late March directed the BOP to release eligible nonviolent inmates to home confinement because of the threat the disease posed to vulnerable prisoners. He expanded that order on April 3 to include more federal inmates.

Madoff, who turns 82 on April 29, had already asked to be freed from his 150-year prison sentence to live out his final days with a friend before succumbing to a terminal kidney disease. His lawyer last month called for all inmates threatened by the coronavirus to be released. 

Kennedy told Barr that he is “concerned that it is only a matter of time” before Stanford, 70, asks for early release from his 110-year sentence.

“Our efforts should be focused on protecting those who protected us; our parents, grandparents, and military veterans who led crime-free lives,” Kennedy said in the letter.

“Criminals such as Madoff and Stanford who preyed on the elderly should be the last ones to benefit from the change in circumstances COVID-19 has caused,” Kennedy wrote.

“The safety of Americans is always our top priority. I respectfully urge you to deny any request for early release made by Robert Allen Stanford, Bernie Madoff, and others who chose to devastate innocent Americans with their fraudulent schemes,” the senator wrote.

Kennedy also asked Barr to update the Department of Justice website with information about all inmates released under the new coronavirus-related orders, and encourage state attorneys general to do the same for state prisoners.

Madoff pleaded guilty in 2009 to crimes related to swindling billions of dollars from thousands of investors. The trustee responsible for recouping Madoff victims’ losses said that the Ponzi kingpin swindled $17.5 billion from his customers – the largest Ponzi scheme in history.

Stanford was convicted in 2012 of crimes related to perpetrating the second biggest investor fraud in U.S. history, in what the Securities and Exchange Commission called a “fraudulent, multi-billion dollar investment scheme.”

Stanford is serving his sentence in a high-security prison in Florida. Prosecutors last month opposed Madoff’s request for early release from a North Carolina federal prison, while not disputing the claim that the notorious fraudster could die within two years.

Thousands of other inmates have reportedly already been released from prison around the country in response to the coronavirus. 

On Thursday, CNBC reported that President Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen would be released from a federal prison camp in upstate New York and allowed to serve the remainder of his three-year sentence in home confinement.

Cohen, 53, had pleaded guilty in 2018 to multiple financial crimes, lying to Congress and to campaign finance violations.

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