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Bernard Madoff will learn today whether he will die in prison when a judge sentences him for masterminding the largest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history.

U.S. District Judge Denny Chin will determine Madoff’s fate in Manhattan federal court. The choice confronting the judge is stark. Madoff attorney Ira Sorkin asked for a sentence of as little as 12 years, citing the 13-year life expectancy for his 71-year-old client. Prosecutors said in a filing June 26 that the “scope, duration and nature of Madoff’s crimes” call for a 150-year term. The hearing began this morning at 10 a.m.

Madoff has shown “no remorse,” said victim Carla Hirschhorn, of Manalapan, New Jersey, at the hearing. She told Chin her life is a “living hell,” her mother is dependent on social security and her daughter works two jobs to pay tuition. “Don’t fail us,” she told the judge.

Madoff, who appeared in court wearing a suit, pleaded guilty March 12 to federal charges he used funds from new investors to pay off other clients. His customers were told they had as much as $65 billion in the weeks before the fraud came to light. Madoff has been held in a jail since his guilty plea.

Sorkin challenged the government’s claim that his client’s fraud has so far led to $13.3 billion in losses. He said the amount should be offset by $1.3 billion held by the trustee for Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC; by $1.3 billion already recovered by the trustee; and by letters sent by the trustee, Irving Picard, seeking to “claw back” $735 million from Madoff investors.

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