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Bernard Madoff heading to jail

From bail to jail - in just minutes.

Swindler Bernard Madoff stood all alone Thursday when he took the heat for carrying out the biggest Ponzi scheme in Wall Street history.

"I am so deeply sorry," Madoff told Judge Denny Chin, who revoked bond and ordered him to the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center, in Manhattan, to await sentencing.

For close to 10 minutes, the 70-year-old Madoff stood in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, as scores of his cheated investors watched, and described how for years he picked their pockets from the very moment he started his investment adviser business. He implicated no one else in the scam, which he said started in the early '90s.

"Your honor, for many years, up until my arrest on Dec. 11, 2008, I operated a Ponzi scheme through the investment advisory side of my business," Madoff told Chin without a trace of emotion. "As I engaged in my fraud, I knew what I was doing was wrong, indeed criminal."

Then, in his first public act of contrition, with his family nowhere to be seen, Madoff apologized for his crimes "for which I am so deeply sorry and ashamed."

- Click here to see photos and sketches of Bernie Madoff in court

- Click here to see photos of the faces of Bernie Madoff's victims

The admissions were a moment of high courtroom drama that would in effect consign Madoff to a life in prison when he is sentenced June 16. Madoff said he believed the scheme would end quickly and that he could pull himself and his clients out from under the self-destructive nature of the fraud, which pays off old investors with money taken from new ones.

"However, this proved difficult, and ultimately impossible, and as the years went by I realized that my arrest and this day would inevitably come," said Madoff.

Although Madoff's three-month period of luxurious house arrest on a $10-million bond since his December arrest has been without incident, Chin revoked his bail, to the applause of investors.

At 11:14 a.m., as lead defense attorney Ira Sorkin watched, U.S. marshals handcuffed Madoff with his wrists behind his back and took him to the correctional center adjacent to the courthouse, said officials. It was the start of what is expected to be a lifetime behind bars. Sorkin said he will appeal the bail revocation.

In pleading guilty to 11 charges - which included securities, mail and wire frauds and money laundering - Madoff implicated no one else in the scheme, which investigators believe may be as much as $65 billion.

Although prosecutors said there is no plea agreement, a source familiar with the case who asked not to be named said Madoff is prepared to meet with special trustee Irving Picard to help his staff locate assets that could be used to pay back customers.

Madoff said his younger brother, Peter, and Madoff's sons, Andrew, 40, and Mark, 42, ran what he said was the "legitimate, profitable and successful" market making operation of his company.

However, law enforcement and legal sources have said investigators have focused some attention on Madoff's family, including his wife, Ruth, who has hired former federal prosecutor Peter Chavkin of Manhattan to represent her in civil lawsuits and regulatory matters. Madoff's sons have hired their own lawyer, as has his brother. None of Madoff's relatives have been accused of wrongdoing, but some employees are reportedly being scrutinized by investigators or approached for information.

Chin allowed some investors to speak in court and one, George Nierenberg, glared at Madoff, stepped away from the podium and taunted him to turn around and look at the victims. Madoff just stared straight ahead. Chin told Nierenberg to just address the court.

"I don't understand why conspiracy is not part of the plea," said Nierenberg.

Ronnie Sue Ambrosino, of Arizona, objected to the plea because she said it squandered an opportunity to find out who else was involved in the scheme.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Litt told Chin the investigation was continuing and that there was no plea deal or agreement with Madoff, a signal that there is no arrangement to spare anyone.

Still, some lawyers were puzzled about why Madoff decided to forgo indictment. Such a move would have allowed him to stay out on bail for many months longer, said Gerald Lefcourt, a Manhattan defense attorney.

Jeffrey Lichtman, another Manhattan attorney, said it is possible that Madoff is giving some unofficial cooperation.

"Why plead guilty to every single charge unless there is something in place to protect his family?" said Lichtman. "Just because there is no cooperation agreement doesn't mean there hasn't been a proffer (giving of information)."

Staff writers John Riley and Rocco Parascandola contributed to this story.

- Click here to see photos and sketches of Bernie Madoff in court

- Click here to see photos of the faces of Bernie Madoff's victims

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