In what one juror called "overwhelming" evidence, five former Bernie Madoff employees were convicted Monday of aiding the ex-financier in his Ponzi scheme, rejecting claims that Madoff acted alone.
Madoff, who is now serving time in a North Carolina federal prison, was accused of defrauding investors, including celebrities, of nearly $20 billion, the Associated Press reported.
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Daniel Bonventre, 67, Madoff's ex-director of operations; Annette Bongiorno, 65, a former executive assistant who managed the firm's longest-standing clients; JoAnn Crupi, 52, who oversaw the company's bank account; and former Madoff computer programmers Jerome O'Hara, 50, and George Perez, 48 were all convicted on various charges.
"The evidence was just overwhelming," juror Craig Parise told reporters after the announcing the convictions.
Prosecutors showed evidence that investors big and small were victimized, including movie director Steven Spielberg, actor Kevin Bacon, Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax and Nobel Peace Prize-winning Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel.
"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," Manhattan-based U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement. "The scheme these defendants helped perpetrate cost innumerable investors their life savings. Now it likely will cost the defendants their freedom."
Jurors told USA Today
that they agreed after the five-month trial that Madoff needed help from his associates to pull off his massive scheme.
"How could Bernie be the only one to pull this off if he's (vacationing) in the south of France?" Sheila Amato, a juror from a northern suburb of New York City, said. "They were loyal, and he rewarded them nicely."
Another juror Nancy Goldberg, told USA Today that Bonventre and Bongiorno were "very scripted" in their testimonies, which hurt their credibility.
Andrew Frisch, Bonventre's attorney told The Associated Press that Madoff conned his clients and his employees, tricking them into carrying out fraud without their knowledge.
"The list of Bernard Madoff's victims now includes these five former employees," Frisch said. Bonventre testified that Madoff manipulated him since 1968, along with the Securities and Exchange Commission and top financiers on Wall Street.
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