New York - Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff, serving a 150-year sentence for masterminding Wall Street's biggest fraud, has total contempt for his victims and is considered a hero by his fellow inmates, New York Magazine said Monday.
In a profile of the 72-year-old fraudster, a year into his sentence at Butner federal prison, in North Carolina, the weekly said Madoff's feelings for the people he scammed were overheard one day when he said: "Fuck my victims. I carried them for 20 years, and now I'm doing 150 years."
The magazine said Madoff enjoyed celebrity status from the moment he arrived at the penitentiary under security escort complete with circling helicopters and a bevy of reporters.
He has made friends in prison with the likes of Colombo crime family boss Carmine Persico, with whom he takes long walks during recess.
Butner is described as a relatively pleasant institution that includes a gymnasium, library, pool tables, chapel and a volleyball court. Its outdoor facilities are dotted with trees, flowers and lawns where inmates take in the sun.
In this closed-off world, Madoff - convict number 61727-054 - has his admirers.
"He enjoys being a celebrity," said lawyer Nancy Fineman who met Madoff shortly after he was locked inside Butner.
His fellow inmates above all admire his "accomplishments": bilking thousands of his clients out of what he claimed before his arrest were $65bn.
One convict said Madoff struts around the prison "like he beat the world."
"In the context of prison, he isn't a cancer on society; he is a success, admired for his vast accomplishments," the inmate told the magazine.
Watching him on CBS television's "60 Minutes" one day, inmates cheered him on: "Bernie, you got 'em for millions... No, billions," one of them said.
"He's arguably the greatest con [confidence man] of all time," said another on a website.
Madoff is sought for his financial advice especially by inmates serving less than life.
Many obviously think he has a stash of money hidden somewhere. "Where did you hide it?" bank robber KC White said he once asked Madoff.
"It's H2O," answered Madoff, meaning the money slipped through his fingers like water.