Perez, O'Hara, Bongiorno, Bonventre And Crupi To Face 58-200 Years In Jail

NEW YORK (CBSNewyork/AP) — Five former employees of imprisoned financier Bernard Madoff have been convicted of conspiracy for helping him carry out his massive Ponzi scheme.

The verdicts came Monday in a Manhattan trial that lasted nearly six months and featured more than 40 witnesses. The federal court trial was the first to result from the multi-decade fraud that landed Madoff in prison for 150 years.

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The jury deliberated for nearly a week before coming back with across-the-board guilty verdicts, WCBS 80’s Irene Cornell reported.

The defendants are all former employees of Madoff’s securities firm. They were accused of enriching themselves while telling an elaborate web of lies for decades. The fraud cheated investors of billions of dollars and duped government regulators.

Those on trial were computer programmers George Perez and Jerome O’Hara; Annette Bongiorno, Madoff’s longtime secretary; Daniel Bonventre, his director of operations for investments and JoAnn Crupi, an account manager.

Lawyers for the ex-employees had argued their clients, much like the investors, were duped by Madoff.

Bongiorno and Bonventre testified that they were victims, but a prosecutor successfully convinced the jury that they were “necessary players” in Madoff’s scheme.

In addition to aiding Madoff, they reportedly also got tens of millions of dollars in a salary and bonuses, CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer reported.

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“As the jury unanimously found, these five defendants played crucial roles in constructing and maintaining the house of cards that was the Madoff investment fraud,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. “These convictions, along with the prior guilty pleas of nine other defendants, demonstrate what we have believed from the earliest stages of the investigation: this largest-ever Ponzi scheme could not have been the work of one person. The trial established that the Madoff fraud began at least as far back as the early 1970s, decades before it came to light.  These defendants each played an important role in carrying out the charade, propping it up, and concealing it from regulators, auditors, taxing authorities, lenders, and investors.  The scheme these defendants helped perpetrate cost innumerable investors their life savings.  Now it likely will cost the defendants their freedom.”

The five now face maximum jail sentences of 58 to 200 years. Nine other Madoff associates have already pleaded guilty, Kramer reported.

The centerpiece of the prosecution’s case was Frank DiPascali, Madoff’s former finance chief, and five other insiders who pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate.

The massive fraud was revealed in December 2008 when Madoff ran out of money and was arrested.

He pleaded guilty to bilking investors of $20 billion and remains imprisoned in North Carolina.

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