Applause broke out in a Manhattan courtroom today when a judge denied admitted Ponzi scheme operator Bernard Madoff's request to return to his luxury penthouse, and instead ordered him handcuffed and taken straight to jail. Madoff pled guilty to 11 felony counts Thursday including securities fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, money laundering, and perjury. He faces a 150 year sentence.
"For many years up until my arrest I operated a Ponzi scheme," Madoff told the court. "When I began I thought it would be over shortly, it became difficult to stop."
Read Bernard Madoff's courtroom statement here.
For the first time, Madoff offered a public apology saying he is "deeply sorry and ashamed."
"I knew what I was doing, it was wrong and I'm deeply sorry," Madoff said.
Madoff remained passive throughout the hearing. He required a sip of water before he began to speak and bowed his head every time he answered "guilty" to all 11 counts. He wore a white shirt and grey suit.
At the close of the hearing, Madoff was handcuffed and led away by marshals.
His attorney, Ira Lee Sorkin, had asked the judge to allow Madoff to remain in his apartment until the sentencing saying that Madoff's wife Ruth would pay for security to prevent his flight "at her own expense", at which point the audience broke out in laughter until Judge Denny Chinn quieted them down.
Sorkin said after the hearing that he intends to appeal the decision to remand Madoff to jail.
A handful of his investor victims also spoke in court.
One victim, Mr. Nurenberg, upon coming up to the podium turned directly to face Madoff and asked him, "Have you looked at the victims in the courtroom?" Judge Chinn reprimanded him telling him sternly to direct himself to the judge.
Another victim, Maureen Evel, told the judge she wanted Madoff to face a trial, not be allowed to make a plea.
"We need to comprehend the global scope of this crime," said Evel. "No man, no matter who he knows, is above the law. If we go to trial we have a chance to see the global scope of this scheme."
Madoff insisted that the salaries and bonuses of his employees were paid by legitimate profits from his legitimate businesses.
Madoff arrived at the Manhattan courthouse earlier Thursday swarmed by media as five news choppers hovered overhead.
One victim who had shown up at the courthouse said, "I have nothing to say to the man I get sick just looking at him."
Sentencing for Madoff has been set for June 16, 2009.
Madoff's plea does not end the matter and the investigation into the vast scheme will continue. Madoff is so far the only person charged in the purported fraud, but investigators continue to look for possible accomplices and have not ruled out his sons nor his wife, Ruth.
Madoff has insisted that he committed the massive fraud on his own.
Madoff will have to forfeit any proceeds from his scheme and that any property obtained from the scheme would also be seized. So far, investigators have recovered about $950 million in cash and securities.