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Madoff Pleads Guilty, Goes To Jail

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

A federal judge has ordered disgraced money manager Bernard Madoff to jail. The order came minutes after Madoff stood in a crowded federal courtroom in New York this morning and pleaded guilty to 11 fraud and perjury charges. In a statement, Madoff said he was deeply ashamed and sorry for all the people who were hurt by the Ponzi scheme he'd operated. But his remorse was not enough to satisfy his former investors.

People in the courtroom applauded when the judge ordered Madoff jailed. NPR's Jim Zarroli was there.

JIM ZARROLI: Over the past three months, as Bernie Madoff became one of the most reviled men in the country, he never once spoke about his crimes. Today, the public finally got to hear him do so. Madoff sat at the defense table in a dark-gray suit staring down at his folded hands. When it came time to speak, he stood and read a statement in a voice so soft the judge had to ask him to speak up.

He said his Ponzi scheme began during the recession of the early 1990s. Madoff said at first, he figured the situation would right itself eventually. But he soon realized he'd built a house of cards, and would end up in a courtroom just like this one. When he was finished, his lawyer tried to persuade Judge Dennis Chin to let him stay out on bail until his sentencing in June. But Chin said no and ordered the 70-year-old Madoff to jail, where he's likely to spend the rest of his life.

Outside the courthouse, some of Madoff's investors stood in the bright, cold sunlight and talked about what had happened. Brian Felsen came from Minneapolis representing his family, who'd lost a lot of money in Madoff's firm. He wouldn't say how much, but Felsen seemed resigned to the fact that much of the money was probably gone.

Mr. BRIAN FELSEN: It's such a heartbreaking situation for everybody that it's hard to be satisfied, but he is now where he deserves to be. He should have been there a long time ago, and hopefully it will begin the grieving process for people, to know that he is going to be held accountable for his actions.

ZARROLI: Many of Madoff's victims remain convinced that he has squirreled away some of the money he made over the years. They point to reports that his wife, Ruth, withdrew $15 million from an account at Madoff's firm in the days before his arrest. Sharon Lissauer was near tears as she explained to reporters that she'd lost all her money to Madoff.

Ms. SHARON LISSAUER: I put all my savings in, stupidly, and - because I trusted him so much and, I mean, I just wish that he would divulge where some of his hidden assets were to make things a little better for the victims.

ZARROLI: But just how much money Madoff had, where it went, and how much of it can be recovered is something the bankruptcy court is still sifting through. Jeffrey Servin is a Philadelphia attorney who came to the hearing on behalf of some clients. He pointed out that Madoff has not always cooperated with federal investigators, and he could well be concealing some assets.

Mr. JEFFREY SERVIN (Attorney): Somebody who's been able to do something like this for this long a period of time and this much detail, probably thought the downside through very well, too. Do I think there's money somewhere hidden? Yeah. Are we ever gonna find it? Who knows.

ZARROLI: Another question that a lot of investors are asking is how Madoff could possibly have carried out such a big fraud by himself. Madoff stressed in his statement that the fraud was limited to the investment advisory arm of his firm, and that the broker dealer business operated by his sons, among others, had nothing to do with it. But U.S. officials said today that they are still investigating the case, leaving open the possibility that one of Madoff's employees or relatives could be in the government's sights. Jim Zarroli, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Jim Zarroli
Jim Zarroli is an NPR correspondent based in New York. He covers economics and business news.
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