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Madoff admits blockbuster fraud

Bernard Madoff pleaded guilty today to charges he orchestrated the biggest financial swindle in Wall Street history, cheating investors out of billions of dollars in a fraud that shocked the public and drew demands for stricter regulations.

"I cannot adequately express how sorry I am for what I have done," the grey-haired 70-year-old Madoff said as he pleaded guilty to 11 criminal charges.

Madoff, the disgraced money manager and former Nasdaq stock market chairman, described a long-running scheme that he knew from the beginning was "criminal and wrong" but hoped would end shortly.

As he become more deeply engaged in the fraud, "I realized that my arrest and this day would inevitably come," he said in a Manhattan federal courthouse where victims of his Ponzi scheme were invited to speak.

Madoff's role in the scheme, which took in as much as $65 billion over two decades before the 2008 market meltdown, could land him in prison for the rest of his life.

Speaking for 10 minutes, Madoff said he was "grateful" for the opportunity to talk and "deeply sorry and ashamed" of his actions.

Madoff, who stood to the left of his lawyer, hands draped at his side, admitted to securities fraud, investment adviser fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, three counts of money laundering, false statements, perjury, false filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and theft from an employee benefit plan.

His investors included hedge funds, banks, Jewish charities, the wealthy, and small individual investors in North and South America and Europe.

Presiding Judge Denny Chin is due to sentence Madoff at a later date.