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Madoff pleads guilty to fraud, sent to jail

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bernard Madoff pleaded guilty on Thursday to charges he orchestrated the biggest financial swindle in Wall Street history and was ordered to jail to await a sentence that could last the rest of his life.

Accused swindler Bernard Madoff (front) enters the Manhattan federal court house in New York March 12, 2009. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

“I cannot adequately express how sorry I am for what I have done,” the gray-haired 70-year-old Madoff said grimly as he stood in a gray suit in Manhattan federal court and pleaded guilty to 11 criminal charges.

Presiding Judge Denny Chin ordered him remanded to jail until his sentencing on June 16. “He has incentive to flee, he has means to flee, and he is a risk of flight,” Chin said.

Madoff was handcuffed and led out of court by U.S. marshals.

In a hearing that lasted more than an hour, Madoff, the disgraced money manager and former Nasdaq stock market chairman, described a long-running scheme he knew from the beginning was “criminal and wrong” but hoped would end shortly.

As he become more deeply engaged in the fraud, “I realized that my arrest and this day would inevitably come,” he said in court where victims of his Ponzi scheme later spoke.

“I am painfully aware that I have deeply hurt many, many people,” including his family, friends and associates, Madoff said.

Madoff’s role in the scheme, which took in as much as $65 billion over two decades before the 2008 market meltdown, could land him in prison for the rest of his life.

Speaking for 10 minutes, Madoff said he was “grateful” for the opportunity to address the court and “deeply sorry and ashamed” of his actions.

Madoff, who stood to the left of his lawyer, hands draped at his side, admitted to securities fraud, investment adviser fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, false statements, perjury, false filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and theft from an employee benefit plan.

His investors included hedge funds, banks, Jewish charities, the wealthy, and small individual investors in North and South America and Europe. The magnitude of the fraud shocked the public and drew demands for stricter regulations.

One investor in court urged the judge to reject the plea, saying that Madoff should be put on trial for his crimes.

She told the court, “We can show all crimes, including crimes of greed, can be dissected, ruled upon and punished, and we can demonstrate that we are a country that can learn from our mistakes.”

Chin, however, accepted the guilty plea, saying the proceedings in his court would accomplish the same goals.

Prosecutors, who want Madoff to forfeit all of the money and property that can be traced back to the alleged fraud, a sum it estimated at more than $170.8 billion, have said the investigation is ongoing, but no other individuals have been charged.

“A lot of resources are being expended both to find assets and to find anyone else who may be responsible for this fraud,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Litt said.

(Madoff’s prepared plea allocution statement was provided by the law firm Dickstein & Shapiro and can be seen by clicking

here )

Additional reporting by Caroline Humer and Edith Honan