Is there a difference between 'admit' and 'admit to' in the following sentences?:

1. he admits stealing it

2. he admits to stealing it
2 is seen to be more formal
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1, admit:
I have to admit he is a good man.
(reluctantly accept a fact or truth)

2,admit to:
he adimts to having lied. (a confess to a crime of fault)

he was adimted to a hospital. (be allowed into a place or group)

they do mean something different in real life.
I'm a bit confused after checking some dictionaries. For example, Merriam Webster (11th ed) defines admit:
- under transitive verb : to concede as true or valid <admitted making a mistake>
- under intransitive verb : to make acknowledgment -- used with to

If we follow the definitions strictly, then
1. he admits stealing it = he concedes as true stealing it
2. he admits to stealing it = he makes acknowledgment to stealing it

So, does 2 actually mean 'he confesses', while 1 'he reluctantly accepts as true'?

But Macmillan English Dictionary For Advanced Learners also defines 1 along the sense of 'confess':

She admitted two charges of handling stolen goods.

Did Merriam Webster miss out this sense under its transitive verb definitions? Or is it because there is a difference between US and UK usage?
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