Madoff Employees' Trial Opens

Oct 17 2013 | 2:48pm ET

The trial of five former Bernard Madoff lieutenants got underway in earnest yesterday, with prosecutors painting a bleak picture of the accused.

"For more than 30 years, Bernard Madoff ran a multi-billion dollar fraud that turned out to be the biggest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history," Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Schwartz said. "There are the people who helped him do it," he said, and "each of them got rich."

Annette Bongiorno, Daniel Bonventre, Joann Crupi, Jerome O'Hara and George Perez are accused of aiding and abetting Madoff's fraud, which unraveled in late 2008. All five—the first of the 15 people accused in the case to stand trial—deny knowing that their boss was running a scam.

Schwartz told the jury that Bongiorno, Madoff's secretary, and Crupi, who handled the firm's daily cash balances, spent most of the day poring over stock prices coming up with "lies to tell investors." Operations director Bonventre "cooked the books" and "treated the company like it was his own personal piggy bank." O'Hara and Perez, computer programmers, used their skills to create systems to trick investors and regulators—and in 2006 insisted on being paid in diamonds, to avoid leaving a paper trial.

The prosecutor conceded that Madoff "sometimes lied to these defendants." But he insisted that "they knew exactly what they were doing" and urged the jurors to "apply your everyday common sense to the facts of this case."

The trial is expected to last up to five months, with the fate of the five defendants in the hands of eight women and four men. At least three of the jurors are teachers and one works at New York City's Human Resources Administration.

Opening statements by the defense attorneys are set to begin today.


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