Bernie Madoff Pleads Guilty in Manhattan Court to Ponzi Scheme Charges; Remanded Immediately to Jail

The swindler said he was "deeply sorry" for destroying the lives of his victims.

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By Melissa Grace, Jose Martinez and Corky Siemaszko


DAILY NEWS WRITERS

Bernie's behind bars.

A Manhattan federal judge dispatched Bernard Madoff to jail immediately after the superstar swindler said he was "deeply sorry" Thursday for destroying the lives of thousands of people in a $65 billion Ponzi scheme. Madoff's victims in the courtroom burst into applause after Manhattan Federal Court Judge Denny gave the order.

"Mr. Madoff, I will see you at sentencing," the judge said.

Moments later, Madoff was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs - closing a chapter in a case of epic fraud that made Madoff's name synonymous with unbridled greed.

During his five minute address to the court, a nervous but contrite Madoff admitted he never invested any of the money he was entrusted with.

"As years went by, I realized my arrest and this day would inevitably come," Madoff said as he read from a sheet of paper.

"I knew it was wrong. I am painfully aware I've deeply hurt many, many people."

While the feds believe Madoff has been ripping off investors since the 1980s, the finagling financier claimed he began making "bogus" investments in the 1990s.

"For many years, up until my arrest on Dec. 11, I operated a Ponzi scheme which was located here in Manhattan," he said.

Madoff, 70, called the scheme, "the vehicle of my wrongdoing" and that he didn't expect to run it for so many years.

Asked why he did it, the fallen Wall Street wizard gave an answer that was long on chutzpah and short on credibility - he did it to survive the 1990's recession.

"I felt compelled to satisfy my clients' expectations at any cost," he said.

Madoff also insisted his brother and two sons played no part in his wrongdoing. He made no mention of his wife, Ruth, who like the rest of his family, remains under federal investigation.

When it came time to plead to eleven criminal charges, Madoff uttered the word "guilty" eleven times.

As expected, defense lawyer Ira Sorkin asked that the courtly crook be allowed to remain under house arrest in his swanky E. 64th St. duplex.

Chin refused and ordered Madoff held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in lower Manhattan until his sentencing on June 16.

Madoff faces up to 150 years in prison - meaning he will almost certainly die behind bars for pulling off the biggest swindle in history.

"I wish him a long life," cracked Richard Friedman of Jericho, L.I., whose family lost $14 million in life savings.

Madoff left his home at 6:45 a.m. after spending a last night with his Ruthie.

Two black umbrellas shielded the con man from view as he left the building through a side


door and slipped into the backseat of a silver SUV. They could not shield Madoff from the scorn of New Yorkers outraged by the sheer scale of his crimes.

"Send him to the electric chair!" a passing driver screamed.

Madoff wore a bulletproof vest under his jacket, but the wife who has been by his side for 45 years was not with him.

As a news helicopter hovered overhead, his SUV inched into traffic and headed east toward the FDR Drive. He arrived at the Manhattan federal courthouse at 7:20 a.m.

Flanked by four security guards, Madoff marched past legions of reporters and photographers - some from as far away as Brazil and Japan - who shouted out questions and snapped away.

Madoff was deaf to them all.

It's like "Britney Spears and her circus act, that and a Tupperware party," a U.S. Marshal said as he corralled the growing crowd.

Madoff entered the courtroom around 9:45 a.m. where some of his victims greeted him with glares and hisses.

Fifteen minutes later, Chin arrived.

At the start of the proceeding, Madoff asked for a drink of water. Then, Chin swore Madoff in.

"Mr. Madoff, you can be seated," Chin told him. "Pour yourself some water."


A few minutes later, Madoff said what everybody expected him to say: that he did it. They he began to explain why. Madoff got an earful from some of his victims.

"I don't know if you've had a chance to turn around and look at your many victims," one said as made a move toward Madoff before the judge ordered him to step back.