Bernard Madoff – the former money manager and Wall Street darling was sentenced to 150 years in prison with no parole on June 29, 2009 for orchestrating a $65bn Ponzi scheme – the biggest fraud in US history. More than 1,300 investors were drawn in over many years, with many facing financial ruin as a results. A number of celebrities, including filmmaker Stephen Spielberg and actor Kevin Bacon were victims.
Ken Lay, the Enron chairman best known for his role in the fraud and corruption scandal that led to the downfall of the energy trading company. He was indicted in 2002 on 11 counts of securities fraud and in 2006 was found guilty on 10, which experts said would have seen him face up to 30 years in prison. However, he died on holiday about three and a half months before his sentencing. As a result, the judge who presided over the case vacated his conviction.
Jeffrey Skilling, the former chief executive of Enron who was convicted in 2006 of multiple felony charges relating to energy trader’s financial collapse. He is currently serving a 24-year prison sentence.
Bernie Ebbers, the co-founder and former chief executive of telecoms company Worldcom, who was convicted of fraud in the largest (to date) accounting scandal in US history. Investors lost $11bn due to false financial reporting. He is serving a 25-year prison term.
Dennis Kozlowski, the former chief executive of conglomerate Tyco, was convicted of misappropriating more than $400m of the company’s funds. He is currently serving at least eight years and four months in prison.
Martin Frankel, a former US financier, convicted in 2002 of insurance fraud worth $208 million, racketeering and money laundering.
James Lewis was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison for operating a long-running Ponzi scheme. He collected arounnd $311m from investors – many whom were elderly – over 20 years by promising high returns. He used the money to finance his own high lifestyle of fancy cars, big homes, and girlfriends. Lewis was caught after an FBI manhunt.
Lou Pearlman, the former manager of famous US boy bands the Backstreet Boys and ‘N’Sync, perpetrated a Ponzi scheme that left more than $300m in debts. For more than 20 years he enticed individuals and banks to invest in Trans Continental Airlines Travel Services Inc. and Trans Continental Airlines Inc., which existed only on paper. He was sentence to 25 years in prison in 2008, after pleading guilty to charges of conspiracy, money laundering and making false statements.
Charles Ponzi, one of greatest swindlers in US history who gave his name to the Ponzi scheme – basically a scam that pays early investors returns from the investments of later investors. He promised clients a 50pc profit within 45 days, or 100pc profit within 90 days.
Barry Minkow ran what appeared to be a successful carpet-cleaning company, ZZZZ Best (pronounced “Zee Best”) which collapsed in 1987, costing investors an estimated $100m. He was convicted of fraud and sentenced to 25 years in prison, but served only seven years. During his time in prison, he became involved in Christian ministry. Today he is a pastor at the Community Bible Church in San Diego. He is recognised as an expert on fraud, and speaks on the subject to university students and the business community in an effort to prevent fraud.