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Lawyer: Madoff Will Plead Guilty This Week

Bernard Madoff arrives at Manhattan federal court for a hearing to discuss potential conflicts of interest between him and his lawyer, Tuesday, March 10, 2009, in New York.
AP Photo/Louis Lanzano
It was a courtroom bombshell.

Bernard Madoff's lawyer revealed Tuesday that Madoff will plead guilty this week to charges he was involved in a Ponzi scheme that robbed investors of tens of billions of dollars, reports CBS News correpondent Randall Pinkston.

For many of them, their life savings.

The 11 felony counts against Madoff - who is 70 years old - could get him what amounts to a life sentence: 150 years in prison.

Worried about angry investors, a subdued Madoff entered court wearing a bulletproof vest. Inside the courtroom, federal prosecutors outlined the charges he faces, 11 counts including securities fraud, investment adviser fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, and international money laundering.

U.S. District Judge Denny Chin said to Madoff's attorney, "I gather there is the expectation that he will plead guilty." Madoff's lawyer, Ira Sorkin, responded, "That's a reasonable expectation."

Madoff is due back in court Thursday to enter a formal plea on charges which could land him in prison for he rest of his life.

Both the judge and prosecutor Mark Litt stressed there is "no plea agreement" - no deal struck with Madoff to reduce his prison time.

"To me, these charging documents indicate that the government has a strong case, and they're basically saying, 'Come in and plead to this or we'll see you in trial,'" said Victoria Toensing, a former U.S. attorney.

It remains unclear whether Madoff is cooperating with prosecutors, providing them with information about others who helped run his multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme.

The government is asking for up to $170 billion in restitution, including everything Madoff owns. His wife, Ruth, is claiming at least $62 million dollars - plus the couple's $7 million penthouse - as her own.

That's really ridiculous," said Brad Friedman, an attorney for Madoff investors. "The only thing she's ever done to earn money for herself is, I think I heard that she wrote a cookbook."

Today's hearing also dealt with a potential conflict of interest for Madoff's attorney Ira Sorkin. He and his family had invested with Madoff. But the judge allowed Madoff to keep Sorkin as his lawyer.

At Thursday's hearing, some of the alleged victims will have their first opportunity to confront Madoff in court.

Among them is Bert Ross who says he lost $5 million.

"He deserves no mercy whatsoever," Ross said. "He deserves to spend the rest of his life in a federal penitentiary, preferably one that is not a country-club penitentiary."

Once Madoff enters a plea, the judge says he will not impose a sentence for several months. On Thursday, the judge is expected to decide whether Madoff will spend that time out on bail - or in prison.