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How much did the Madoff family actually know?

Bernard Madoff (pictured) was yesterday sentenced to 150 years in prison for running the largest pyramid scheme ever seen.

Judge Denny Chin, the man who handed down Madoff's unprecedented sentence, told the court the $65 billion swindle exceeded all sentencing guides. "The message must be sent that Mr Madoff's crimes were extraordinarily evil," said Judge Chin as he rejected appeals for leniency for the disgraced ex Nasdaq chairman.

Victims cheered as the sentence was read in a New York courtroom offering a brief sense of closure despite their massive losses. However, there are still many questions surrounding the Madoff case, not least the role of his immediate family in the scam.

As the investigators search for the missing billions, some of the victims look to Ruth Madoff and the couple's two sons, Mark and Andrew, for answers. Mrs Madoff held her silence until after the sentencing, when she released a statement implying she was as much of a victim as those he defrauded. "Like everyone else, I feel betrayed and confused," she said. "The man who committed this horrible fraud is not the man whom I have known for all these years." Mrs Madoff has given up $80 billion in assets and maintains she did not know of the scam until her husband told her just before his arrest.

Doubts were also raised over Madoff's sons' involvement when two former employees filed a lawsuit against them last week, claiming Mark and Andrew must have known their fathers business was a scam. The brothers claim they knew nothing of the giant fraud their father was running because they were executives at the brokerage arm of the company, which is separate from the investment advisory business through which Bernard ran his scam.

With their assets seized or frozen and their name synonymous with fraud, it will take the Madoff family a long time to recover – whether or not it is ever proven that it was a true family business. As Madoff is quoted as saying: "I leave a legacy of shame... for my children and grandchildren. That is something I have to live with." 

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