Madoff jailed, pleads guilty to massive fraud in court

March 13th, 2009 - 3:22 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 13 (DPA) Disgraced financier Bernard Madoff will go to jail after admitting in court Thursday to a $50-billion fraud that entwined hundreds of investors around the world and has made him the poster-child of Wall Street greed in the current financial crisis.

Madoff pleaded guilty in a lower Manhattan federal court to all 11 criminal counts and could be sentenced to 150 years in jail for one of the largest financial swindles in history, the court confirmed.

Judge Denny Chin accepted the guilty plea and remanded Madoff to custody until he is sentenced June 16, the court said. Madoff chose to plead guilty despite failing to reach a plea deal with prosecutors that might have reduced his sentence.

“As I engaged in my fraud, I knew what I was doing was wrong, even criminal,” Madoff said in his plea, adding that he “knew this day would inevitable come” after he found himself unable to wind down the so-called Ponzi scheme.

Victims expressed glee over the judge’s decision to imprison Madoff, who told the court he was “deeply sorry and ashamed” for his actions. His lawyer Ira Sorkin said he would appeal the judge’s ruling to remand him into custody.

The 70-year-old investor had been under house arrest since January at his luxurious Upper East Side Manhattan home on $10 million bail - a court decision that provoked outrage among his many victims.

“I don’t want to hear anything he has to say. He’s meaningless, meaningless to me,” victim Rocco Ambrosino told local television station NY1 outside the courthouse.

Madoff was charged with securities fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, three counts of money laundering and filing false statements with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

He was arrested in December for allegedly running a $50-billion pyramid “Ponzi” scheme, under which he was able to offer his investors handsome returns by continually collecting fresh funds from new clients.

Once a powerhouse on Wall Street through his firm, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, his victims included celebrities, charities, universities and other prominent investors around the world. Madoff said he was “painfully aware that I have deeply hurt many, many people”.

The scandal has also been a major embarrassment for government regulators. An independent fraud investigator, Harry Markopolos, testified before Congress last month that he had warned the SEC of Madoff’s plans some nine years ago.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said the crime “speaks to extraordinary irresponsibility and extraordinary greed”. President Barack Obama was committed to bolstering financial regulation to
“ensure that kind of criminal activity never happens again”.

Madoff said he started the scheme in the early 1990s during a US recession, though prosecutors allege it began a decade earlier.

Aside from Madoff’s sentencing, the question remains whether the victims will be able to get any of their money back. Madoff’s wife, Ruth, is arguing that tens of millions of dollars in her name cannot be touched to pay victims of the swindle.

Prosecutors also believe a number of Madoff’s employees may have been involved in the scam and an investigation is ongoing, though no one else has been charged to date. Madoff passed up the opportunity of a plea detail in exchange for implicating other employees in the scandal.

“Today is one step in an ongoing investigation,” New York district attorney Lev Dassin said. “We are continuing to investigate the fraud and will bring additional charges against anyone, including Madoff, as warranted.”

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