- The Washington Times - Friday, March 6, 2009

Court records filed Friday strongly indicate accused swindler Bernard Madoff intends to plead guilty on Thursday of next week.

A plea hearing has been scheduled for next Thursday at which victims may be allowed to speak, according to a court order signed Friday evening by Judge Denny Chin. Victims do not testify at hearings where the defendant files a “not guilty” plea.

The order filed late Friday afternoon followed an earlier filing from prosecutors indicating Mr. Madoff, who is accused of perpetrating a multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme, will waive indictment in the case and instead be charged through a criminal information. Such a filing is necessary for a case to end in a plea agreement.

“Obviously, there’s no way to know for sure, but often that’s an indication that there are some fairly advanced plea discussion involving the government and a defendant,” said Barry Pollack, a white-collar defense attorney not involved in the case. “It seems to be an indication that both sides are satisfied that things are moving in that direction, but it certainly doesn’t mean anything is imminent,”

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment and Mr. Madoff’s lawyer did not return a message left by The Washington Times.

Mr. Madoff, who is currently under house arrest at his Manhattan penthouse, is scheduled to appear in federal court Tuesday and Thursday.

The FBI arrested Mr. Madoff in December after authorities say he confessed to the scam that has victimized thousands of investors and charities and spelled financial ruin for many.

The Associated Press reported that the wavier of indictment came the same day the first reimbursement checks were sent to Mr. Madoff’s purported victims. Investors are eligible to receive up to $500,000 and have until July to file their claims with the Securities Investor Protection Corp.

Meanwhile, criminal investigators have spent months trying to unravel the complex scheme. Mr. Pollack said Friday’s earlier filing could also indicate Mr. Madoff is providing further information to investigators, a sign that a guilty plea may not be immediate.

“There might be extraordinarily voluminous amounts of information and they are going to need to review it to make sure the information they’re getting from him is correct,” Mr. Pollack said.

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