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13 Mar, 2009 08:18

Madoff pleads guilty, sent to jail

Bernard Madoff has been handcuffed and led to jail after a judge revoked his bail upon his guilty plea to the 11 charges against him, including fraud and money laundering.

Saying he was “deeply sorry and ashamed,” the 70 year-old Madoff pleaded guilty Thursday to pulling off what has been called the largest swindle in Wall Street history by cheating investors out of some $US 50 billion.

After his admission of guilt, the judged revoked the former NASDAQ chairman's bail and he was immediately led off to jail in handcuffs and could face up to 150 years in prison.

“I am actually grateful for this opportunity to publicly comment about my crimes, for which I am deeply sorry and ashamed,” said Madoff.

Madoff told the judge that he began the scheme in the early 1990s when the country was in a recession and the market was not doing well.

“When I began the Ponzi scheme I believed it would end shortly and I would be able to extricate myself and my clients from the scheme,” he said. “However, this proved difficult and ultimately impossible, and as the years went by I realized that my arrest and this day would inevitably come.”

Madoff, who had been under house arrest in his Manhattan penthouse for the past three months, will be sentenced June 17.

Aside from jail time, Madoff faces fines, restitution to his victims and forfeiture of all his illegal gains.

While many victims welcomed the news, the plea let down many investors who had hoped for further disclosure into the extent of the fraud. Because of the nature of a guilty plea, Madoff is not obliged to disclose the names of those who helped him or say where the money went.

“I don't think he has a sincere bone in his body,” said DeWitt Baker, an investor who attended the hearing and lost more than $1 million with Madoff. He said that prison time would be too good for Madoff.

“I'd stone him to death,” he said.