NEW YORK — Bernard Madoff, sentenced to 150 years in jail for the biggest financial scam in US history, on Tuesday said the judge in his case had made him a "human pinata" and passed an overly harsh sentence.

"Maybe the judge felt, 'Well, he's 70 years old, so even if I give him 20 years, he's going to be 90 years old," Madoff told the New York Times by phone from the federal prison at Butner, North Carolina.

"But quite frankly, there's a big difference with dying in prison, you know, and dying outside with your family."

Judge Denny Chin sentenced the one-time Wall Street icon to 150 years behind bars in 2009 after he was found guilty of defrauding investors -- ranging from celebrities to well-known banks and Jewish charities -- of billions of dollars.

Prosecutors say about $13 billion was handed to Madoff. The financier himself has talked about losing some $50 billion, which is believed to be the amount that would have been paid out had the funds been properly invested.

Madoff told the Times he had been made a scapegoat for the financial crisis that eventually laid bare his scheme, saying Chin had made him "the human pinata of Wall Street."

"In my mind, Chin was anything but fair, with zero understanding of the industry," Madoff said.

"Explain to me who else has received a sentence like that... I mean, serial killers get a death sentence, but that?s virtually what he gave me."

"I'm surprised Chin didn't suggest stoning in the public square," he added.

Chin, who at the time of sentencing described Madoff's crimes as "extraordinarily evil," defended the sentence in a separate Times article.

"The benefits of giving him hope were far outweighed by all of the other considerations," he told the newspaper.

Madoff has said that of the billions of dollars that passed through his hands during the three-decade scam, he never invested one cent in the market. Instead he stashed the funds in a Chase Manhattan bank account.

The funds were then used to pay out "dividends" to investors in what is known as a "Ponzi scheme."