New York, NY —
Bernard Madoff was led away from a federal courtroom in Lower Manhattan in handcuffs, after he pleaded guilty to all 11 counts of fraud in a massive Ponzi scheme that wiped out many people's investments. More than 100 spectators crammed into the courtroom.
Madoff did not look at any of the three investors who spoke at the hearing, even when one turned in his direction and tried to address him. The courtroom erupted in applause after the judge announced Madoff would go directly to jail.
Richard Friedman says he lost $3 million. "I couldn't have had a great shock in my life," says Friedman. "Then I had to go home and tell my wife that all our money was gone."
Debra Schwartz says she lost two-thirds of her life savings. "I'm looking at this is an incredible devastating challenge, but I'm going to figure out how to make the best of this."
Helen Chaitman, who says she lost "all of her savings," believes Madoff's guilty plea is not the end of the case. "The biggest question now is how many other people will be indicted. It's inconceivable that Mr. Madoff pulled this off by himself."
The scheme evaporated life fortunes, wiped out charities and apparently pushed at least two investors to commit suicide. Victims big and small were swindled by Madoff, from elderly Florida retirees to actors Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel.