NEW YORK (AP) — Bernard Madoff could not have pulled off history's biggest Ponzi scheme without assistance from five greedy employees who helped him lie to thousands of investors and federal regulators, a prosecutor told jurors at the opening of a five-month criminal fraud trial, the first to result from a lengthy probe of the financier's fallen empire.
"Nobody is going to dispute that Bernard Madoff told a ton of lies — of course, he did," Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Schwartz told jurors in an opening statement at the Manhattan trial of five ex-Madoff employees. "But the evidence will show that these defendants knew exactly what they were doing. ... They did it because Bernard Madoff encouraged it and they were getting rich in the process."
Lawyers for the defendants were expected to insist in their opening statements Thursday that their clients were victims of a boss who fooled them just as he did investors and regulators.
Annette Bongiorno, Madoff's longtime secretary; Daniel Bonventre, his director of operations for investments; JoAnn Crupi, an account manager; and computer programmers Jerome O'Hara and George Perez — all have pleaded not guilty. They have claimed they were led astray by Madoff and kept in the dark about his epic fraud.
The prosecutor alleged the defendants went to absurd lengths to cover their tracks. He told an anecdote about how in the middle of an audit, O'Hara, Perez and Krupi needed to quickly cook up a fake document. After pulling the document hot off the printer, they put it in a refrigerator to cool it off and tossed it around to make it look older before handing it over to auditors waiting in a conference room at Madoff's firm, he said.
"These are the people who helped him do it," Schwartz said, pointing at each defendant in federal court. "Bernie Madoff needed help to fool so many people for so long."