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Wall St. swindler is ordered to jail

March 12, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) -- Bernard Madoff has been ordered to jail after pleading guilty to an epic financial fraud scheme.

Applause broke out in the courtroom after the judge's announcement Thursday.

The judge revoked bail after the financier entered 11 guilty pleas.

The judge says the 70-year-old Madoff has the means to flee and an incentive to do so because of his age.

Madoff admitted he began operating a giant Ponzi scheme in the early 1990s in response to a recession. Prosecutors say he robbed investors of billions of dollars.

Sentencing has been set for June 16. He 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," Madoff told U.S. District Judge Denny Chin.

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He said that he started the fraud but that he believed it would be short and he could extricate himself.

"As the years went by, I realized my risk, and this day would inevitably come," he said in a steady voice. "I cannot adequately express how sorry I am for my crimes."

The fraud turned a revered money man into an overnight global disgrace whose name became synonymous with the current economic meltdown.

Madoff described his crimes after he entered a guilty plea to all 11 counts he was charged with, including fraud, perjury, theft from an employee benefit plan, and two counts of international money laundering.

Prosecutors say the disgraced financier, who has spent three months under house arrest in his $7 million in Manhattan penthouse, could face a maximum sentence of 150 years in prison at sentencing.

The plea came three months after the FBI claimed Madoff admitted to his sons that his once-revered investment fund was all a big lie -- a Ponzi scheme that was in the billions of dollars. Since his arrest in December, the scandal has turned the 70-year-old former Nasdaq chairman into a pariah who has worn a bulletproof vest to court.

The scheme evaporated life fortunes, wiped out charities and apparently pushed at least two investors to commit suicide. Victims big and small were swindled by Madoff, from elderly Florida retirees to actors Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel.

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