Madoff pleads guilty to all 11 charges

March 12, 2009 6:49:29 PM PDT
It may go down in the history books as one of the biggest scams ever, and the man behind it all is behind bars Thursday night. Bernie Madoff conned the rich and famous, along with the rich and anonymous.

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Madoff avoided looking at the crowds as he arrived at the courthouse. Many were victims who collectively lost an estimated $65 billion.

"So he goes to jail, he's going to spend the rest of his life in jail, is that justice," one victim said.

Madoff pleaded guilty to 11 charges of securities fraud, money laundering, false statements and theft. "I am deeply sorry and ashamed," he said, his first public comments about the Ponzi scheme that swept in victims globally.

The 70-year-old Madoff, a former chairman of the Nasdaq exchange, could face up to 150 years in prison. The judge revoked his bail. Madoff was handcuffed and transferred immediately to the Metropolitan Correctional Center.

"The only thing good that happened today was he's in jail," DeWitt Baker said.

While it was a shameful day for Madoff, Stanford law professor Joseph Grundfest said the same about federal regulators. Grundfest is a former commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

"The SEC shoulders a material portion of the blame for not shutting this operation down sooner than it did," Grundfest said.

ABC7 legal analyst Dean Johnson says Madoff's attorneys will now look for mitigating circumstances -- reasons why the judge should give Madoff a lighter sentence.

"His age, his lack of criminal record, it may be revealed that he has some sort of illness; that is important to a judge in a normal case, but this is not a usual case," Johnson said.

An unusual case because Madoff's $65 billion scheme is unprecedented in size. And it took in the rich and famous, along with smaller investors who recommended Madoff to others.

"People have to take responsibility for their own portfolios, they have to take responsibility for their own actions, it's a lesson that we can't rely on the government to take care of us," Grundfest said.

Madoff's legacy will not end with his June 16, 2009 sentencing. Investigators are still trying to determine who else at his firm might have participated in the scheme. There will also be hundreds of civil lawsuits by investors aimed at so-called "feeder" firms," companies that invested in Madoff's scheme for clients who did not even know of Madoff.

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