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On June 29, 2009, Bernard L. Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison for his creation and perpetration of an unprecedented, worldwide "Ponzi" scheme, which caused an ultimate loss to thousands of investors totaling upwards of $65 billion. Although Madoff's Ponzi scheme caused more investor losses than any one similar scheme in American history, many were shocked by the severity of Madoff's sentence. As a man in his seventies, a sentence of 150 years incarceration is well beyond a life sentence and serves as a symbol to deter those who would engage in similar conduct in the future. ...

Since the fall of 2008, worldwide financial systems have been on the brink of complete collapse. In the midst of this economic turmoil, one of the leaders of the Wall Street brigade was discovered to have committed the largest Ponzi scheme in American history and was sentenced to a prison term lasting nearly twelve times his remaining life expectancy? These parallel events raise the question of whether sentences for white collar crimes increase in severity as the economic health of the country decreases. First, because the Guidelines are extremely influential in a federal judge's determination of punishment, this Article will discuss the Guidelines' creation, modification, judicial review, and effects on white collar sentencing. Second, because Madoff's activities and subsequent sentencing were the inspiration behind this Article, it will consider Madoff's sentence as an illustrative example of the application of the Guidelines. Third and finally, the Article will compare the incarceration length of "white collar" criminals with various measures of the health of the United States economy at the time of their sentencing to determine whether there is any correlation between economic turmoil and sentence severity