March 12th, 2009
03:18 PM ET

What Madoff said in court

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/02/11/madoff.wife.withdrawals/art.madoff.gi.jpg]

Michael Schulder
CNN Senior Executive Producer

And so it ended. Just like that. A six-word email that came across our desks at 11:15am:

“Madoff has been remanded to jail.”

There comes a time in many crime stories when the word “alleged” disappears. That’s what happened before lunch today in the Bernard Madoff case. He is no longer the “alleged” mastermind of a Ponzi scheme. He ran it. He admits it. No 'alleged.'

Here's what went down in court - as described in another email by our producers in court:

“The judge has gone over all the charges and the maximum penalties for each with Madoff.

"Madoff has told the judge that he understands the charges that have been brought against him, and that all the charges together could mean a potential maximum penalty of 150 years in prison. (Note: Madoff is 70-years-old—meaning life in prison if maximum was sentenced.)

Courtroom Color: In reaction to some nervous gestures made by Madoff (hand wringing and such) the judge suggested that Madoff pour himself a glass of water.

The judge has asked Madoff to tell the courtroom what he did, and Madoff has begun explaining to the courtroom what he did beginning by telling the open courtroom that, ‘I operated a Ponzi scheme.’

Madoff is continuing to tell the courtroom what he did.

Quotes from Madoff:
‘I’m grateful to speak for my crimes.’

‘I thought it would end quickly, but it proved impossible.’ (in regards to the ponzi scheme)

‘I am ashamed for these criminal acts.’

‘I cannot express how regretful I am for my crimes.’

‘I always knew this day would come.’ "

That was the first summary. We now have a full transcript.

After Madoff spoke in court, his victims got their chance.

Loretta Weinberg said she didn’t even know all her money was invested with Madoff until December 11. She’d never even heard his name before. She says she invested with a money manager she trusted, a money manager whose idea of managing money, she now says, was sending an envelope with cash to Madoff. In other words, she was in a feeder fund – another term most of us had never heard of before December.

Holocaust survivor and Madoff victim Elie Wiesel, who says he lost all his family’s savings and $15 million from his charitable foundation, said the other week, “the imagination of the criminal precedes that of the innocent.”

In a previous post for this site we laid out Wiesel’s suggested punishment for Madoff – Wiesel is the Nobel Peace Prize winning author whom the Nobel committee called a “messenger to mankind.”

“I would like him to be in a solitary cell with a screen,” says Wiesel,” and on that screen, for at least five years of his life, every day and every night there should be pictures of his victims, one after the other after the other, always saying “look, look what you have done to this poor lady, look what you have done to this child, look what you have done.” But nothing else – he should not be able to avoid those faces, for years to come. This is only a minimum punishment.”

Madoff is scheduled to be sentenced on June 16th. We’ll see what kind of imagination the judge possesses.

Madoff told the judge he knew this day would come. Somehow, the SEC didn’t, despite all the evidence it received over the years that Madoff was running a Ponzi scheme.

And so it ends for Madoff. But not quite. There are still two more questions that will keep investigators busy for many years to come. What happened to the money? And who were his accomplices?

soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. Annie Kate

    Madoff can't return the money – its gone. He probably pleaded guilty to keep the law off his wife and children and as long as the scheme went on and as quiet as it was the family may very well not know about it until he confessed it to his sons. In a crime like this where so many have been defrauded for so much, I'm not sure there is a punishment that is "enough" – how do you punish someone for losing the life's savings accumulated over 50 years? Especially when the money cannot be found to give back to them. I think Weisel had the best suggestion; I also hope that Madoff does not go to a "country club" prison but to regular prison where common crooks go – after all in the end that is all Madoff is.

    March 12, 2009 at 8:39 pm |
  2. JoeJoe

    Oh those poor filthy rich people. Woe are them. Boo hoo.

    You're all IDIOTS for investing all your money in one basket. Blame yourselves.

    March 12, 2009 at 7:43 pm |
  3. LB

    Put him (Madoff) in a cell with Chris Brown, they deserve each other.
    Mrs. Madoff should have every penny of hers taken away. His clients should get her money, and she should get nothing. Start over again Mrs. Madoff and she what your clients have to go through.

    March 12, 2009 at 7:11 pm |
  4. Thecomingdepression

    I bet anything the government was involved somehow or another. How could this be allowed to go on for years after he was implicated in 2000- 2001? Could the mafia,Russian mafia and other criminals have all this money to keep the drug trade going? Along with the CIA? Great conspiracy that will last for YEARS!

    March 12, 2009 at 6:28 pm |
  5. Mireille Lebrun

    Bernard Madoff should return the money that he stole from lots of hard working individuals. The FBI should look into his family and friends who are holding the money he stole and deposited in foreign banks.
    They also shoud be going to prison not a prison resort.
    Government shoud confiscate money and property transfered to family and friends, as well as gifts given in the past 10 yrs.

    March 12, 2009 at 6:17 pm |
  6. Steve Newman

    Frankly, I doubt his sons were involved. They turned him in. His wife may have been, but neither his brother nor his neice appear to have been aware of the Ponzi scheme. His neice even invested with him and lost most of her money. Nice guy! Rips off his niece.

    This slime of a person should spend the rest of life behind bars. The more important question is where was the SEC during all of this? Expecially since they had received well-researched information from Harry Markoupolous (Sp?) showing that Madoff was running a Ponzi scheme.

    March 12, 2009 at 6:00 pm |
  7. Lawrence Curtin

    Where did the money go? For those of us who understand math, It went to pay the other investors, or money invested at 10% per year over 10 years doubles.

    Lastly this was only money. It was not murder. When someone is murdered anywhere that should get headlines. Instead this creep who took a lot of greedy people gets the headlines.

    Its called values. Stop the murders. Let greedy people's news go to the last page.

    March 12, 2009 at 5:59 pm |
  8. KenS

    Patrick, You've got it wrong.

    Other money managers would post much bigger returns. Madoff's returns were solid and steady. Most of his investors probably thought that, instead of chasing big returns, they were getting solid returns with reduced risk.

    And don't forget, there were a large number of non-profits among his victims. THese were organizations which helped the homeless, the poor, victims of persecution, orphans. Were they greedy?

    March 12, 2009 at 5:55 pm |
  9. Sumner

    Patrick....I think you're being overly hard on the victims. You can call them nieve, overly trusting, and maybe even just downright dumb. But, investing with Madoff was seen as being low risk. It wasn't of course, and in hindsight it all looks so obvious. But, putting your money in what you thought was a safe place was an act of carelessness, but not greed.

    March 12, 2009 at 5:54 pm |
  10. Nancy

    To Patrick. Most of his victims were not millionaires. They were average joes with life savings funds and such. Money that they thought was actually being investing into traditional roth IRAs as well. This guy AFFECTED EVERYONE even if we didn't invest with him. Part of the stock market plunges were also attributed to him. Now everyone is afraid to invest.

    March 12, 2009 at 5:52 pm |
  11. R J

    Madoff's wife and family should also be investigated and their assets seized. I cannot believe that they had no knowledge of the scheme. His wife was the main bookkeeper. She had to have known what was going on. These people are the worst of the worst. They have no conscience what so ever and deserve to be sentenced to the maximum on every count they are convicted of. They should never be free ever again.

    March 12, 2009 at 5:51 pm |
  12. resat

    Madoff is in jail and his family is enjoying the wealth they stole from innocent investors. We all will see that family will pretend they did not know anyting about the scheme. Well let's see for how long they could enjoy this. They are just ridiculing the American Justice ...

    March 12, 2009 at 5:51 pm |
  13. Frank

    Please do what Elie Wiesel said. It truly will not be worse than what the victims will have to go thru. Make sure that his family and associates are also taken to task.

    March 12, 2009 at 5:51 pm |
  14. HHH

    How does he, and his accomplices, look themselves in the mirror? Read the book, "The Sociopath Next Door" and you will understand people like this have no conscience.

    March 12, 2009 at 5:49 pm |
  15. iwillbecause

    At least they wiped that smirk off his face.

    March 12, 2009 at 5:48 pm |
  16. George - Port Dover

    He could not have done this alone.

    March 12, 2009 at 5:46 pm |
  17. Bonzo

    What did people expect from 'those people'?

    March 12, 2009 at 5:44 pm |
  18. Beverly-NYC

    Who were his acomplices? Look no further than his wife and sons, who should be in a cell right next to him. How does this crew sleep at night knowing what the've done. What do you say to yourself to justify theft and the devestation of lives on this scale. I expect in a few years they will be back in court trying to quietly get him released arguing that jail is bad for his health. The Chutzpah of these people and they are still trying to hold on to their ill gotten gains, one would think they were the victims.

    March 12, 2009 at 5:03 pm |
  19. Patrick

    What Madoff knowingly did and his intentions were absolutely deplorable and he should rot in jail. I hope everything he has will be taken from his family. But I find it difficult to feel sorry for those who had so much, and out of greed, trusted someone to get them more. These people really have no one to blame but themselves for taking uncalculated risks and that is the name of the game…RISK! You lost. Welcome to reality. I feel more for those who have worked and labored for their earnings, living modest lives, not trying to get ahead by investing out of greed. Pure and simple people, it was greed.

    March 12, 2009 at 4:56 pm |

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