NEW YORK — Bernard Madoff will get one last creature comfort before he is sentenced today, probably to serve out the rest of his days in prison. The judge has given him permission to don his own clothes for the hearing, rather than a jail uniform.

NEW YORK — Bernard Madoff will get one last creature comfort before he is sentenced today, probably to serve out the rest of his days in prison. The judge has given him permission to don his own clothes for the hearing, rather than a jail uniform.

Jack Cutter is wearing something special, too, these days: a butcher's smock.

The 80-year-old from Longmont, Colo. had to go back to work after he lost his retirement savings in Madoff's massive swindle. He used to be a petroleum engineer. Now he spends his weekdays toiling in the meat department at a Safeway supermarket. The gig pays $8.64 per hour.

"It's a tough job," he said. "Eight hours on my feet."

Madoff's fraud, maybe the biggest in Wall Street history, wiped out thousands of people around the globe. Not all of them were Palm Beach millionaires.

A sizable roster of public school teachers, farmers, mechanics and other middle class folk are also among the victims. Many had been enjoying a comfortable retirement until Madoff's arrest in December. Now, nest eggs gone, they are struggling to pay the bills.

Help isn't on the way anytime soon.

Prosecutors, who have asked a federal judge in Manhattan to sentence Madoff to 150 years, have promised to seize his assets and force him to pay restitution. On Friday, a judge ruled Madoff must forfeit $171 billion in assets, and his wife Ruth was stripped of more than $80 million in net worth she claimed was hers.

Yet, six months after his arrest, prosecutors still don't know exactly how much money he took or what victims might hope to eventually recover. With their financial futures grim, many of the con-man's victims are in no position to take pleasure in his moment of reckoning.

"It's real easy to be very, very angry at Mr. Madoff. He's a complete scam artist," said Cutter. "But my immediate concern is, how long can I continue doing this?"

Even in prison, Madoff will likely be spared that type of hard labor.

The swindler's fate has been nearly a foregone conclusion since his confession in December.

At the time, investors thought they had $64 billion stashed away in their Madoff accounts. In reality, there was less than $1 billion. Madoff was supposed to have invested the money in stocks. Instead, he ran a classic Ponzi scheme, using new deposits to pay bogus returns.

Whatever money is recovered will eventually be pooled and divided up among the victims. Some people who invested directly with Madoff will also qualify for up to $500,000 in payments from the Securities Investor Protection Corporation, an industry-funded group.

But those efforts might do little for those who need help most — the thousands of smalltimers who entrusted their 401(k) and IRA plans to money managers, who then placed the money with Madoff, often without their clients' knowledge.