Mr. Madoff, 70 years old, said he felt compelled to meet clients' expectations for returns that outpaced the market and thought the scheme would end shortly. Mr. Madoff said he started the scheme during a recession, which was difficult for investing in stocks.
"I am actually grateful for this opportunity to publicly comment about my crimes, for which I am deeply sorry and ashamed," he told U.S. District Judge Denny Chin.
"As the years went by, I realized my risk, and this day would inevitably come," he said in a steady voice. "I cannot adequately express how sorry I am for my crimes."
Madoff claimed — fictitiously, it turns out — to have $65 billion in 4,800 client accounts in November, before he confessed his crime to his sons, who turned him in to the authorities. Only $1 billion has been found by the trustee overseeing the liquidation of Madoff's firm. The list of victims include real-estate mogul Mort Zuckerman, Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, actors Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon, DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, filmmaker Steven Spielberg, and Alexandra Penney.