Page last updated at 12:52 GMT, Thursday, 12 March 2009

Madoff 'due to enter guilty plea'

As Bernard Madoff arrives in court some of his investors describe their feelings

Disgraced financier Bernard Madoff has entered a courtroom in Manhattan to plead on 11 charges linked to his alleged $50bn (35bn) fraud.

Prosecutors want a 150-year jail sentence for Mr Madoff, who is expected to plead guilty to all charges.

Mr Madoff, 70, is accused of running a Ponzi scheme where early investors were paid off with the money of new clients.

The hearing is also set to allow some of Mr Madoff's thousands of alleged victims to address the court.

He's 82, she's 78, and they are both looking for work because they have lost everything
Victims' lawyer Mark Raymond

At least 20 of Mr Madoff's investors have asked to speak, on what commentators said they expected to be a day of high drama.

The court hearing is further expected to rule on whether Mr Madoff should be allowed to continue to remain on bail.

Since his arrest in December Mr Madoff has been confined to his luxury Manhattan apartment.

'A genius'

A former chairman of the Nasdaq stock market, Mr Madoff has been a Wall Street figure for more than 40 years.

You're dealing with the greatest con artist probably in the history of the world

Madoff investor Burt Ross, a former town mayor

The only person accused in the scandal surrounding his firm, Bernard L Madoff Investment Securities, his 11 charges include four counts of fraud.

In addition, he is charged with three counts of money laundering, making false statements, perjury, making a false filing to the US financial watchdog, and theft from an employee benefit plan.

One of Mr Madoff''s alleged victims, Burt Ross, a former mayor of New Jersey town Fort Lee, told the BBC he did not expect to recover a single cent of the $5m he invested.

"Bernard Madoff is a genius," said Mr Ross. "You're dealing with the greatest con artist probably in the history of the world.

A fraudulent investment scheme paying investors from money paid in by other investors rather than real profits
Named after Charles Ponzi who notoriously used the technique in the United States in the 1920s
Differs from pyramid selling in that individuals all tend to invest with the same person

"He created a mystique and associated with extraordinarily well respected and revered people, and so he was given the benefit of the doubt by financial regulators who blew it badly."

Investigators say they are continuing efforts to recover all the money Mr Madoff is alleged to have stolen, but most commentators - and most of his investors - say it is highly unlikely that any more than a very small amount will be found.

Mark Raymond, a lawyer representing some of Mr Madoff's alleged victims, said it would be wrong to think of them all being multimillionaires.

Despite widespread press coverage of famous names and a wealthy elite, Mr Raymond, of law firm Broad and Cassel, said many were normal working people, including a retired couple from Atlanta.

"He's 82, she's 78, and they are both looking for work because they have lost everything," he said.

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