NEW YORK – Bernard Madoff, the high-profile money manager accused of defrauding investors of $50 billion in a massive Ponzi scheme, is expected to plead guilty to federal charges at a hearing Thursday, a Justice Department official told FOX News.
Victims could speak at the hearing, and there are thousands of them, according to a motion filed in federal court.
The motion filed by prosecutors Friday had hinted at a plea deal in one of the biggest financial fraud cases in history. The U.S. Attorney's office suggested in the brief court filing that the money manager is ready to waive an indictment, language that often is used when plea deals are near.
The terms of the deal weren't immediately clear, though Madoff is expected to face time behind bars given the severity of the case.
Without a plea deal, prosecutors would face a deadline of next Friday to bring an indictment against Madoff under the speedy-trials law.
Madoff has been confined to his Manhattan penthouse since his arrest in December. Madoff has never contested the allegations and recently surrendered millions of dollars in major assets, actions that typically precede plea deals.
Investigators have spent the last three months trying to untangle Madoff's complicated financial operation while attempting to return what is left of his assets to investors who lost billions. Madoff's cooperation could be key to explaining the mysteries and intricacies of his business, and also explain if others were involved in the fraud.
Daniel J. Horwitz, a Madoff defense lawyer, would only say that "we've waived the right to indictment and the case will proceed by information."
Typically, a defendant is brought before a judge, waives indictment and enters a guilty plea the same day to a charging document known as an "information." It resembles an indictment but is brought by prosecutors rather than a grand jury.
Prosecutor's spokeswoman Rebekah Carmichael declined to comment.
FOX News' Mike Levine and the Associated Press contributed to this report.