Madoff Defendants Just Following Orders, Lawyers Say

Mar 12 2014 | 11:18am ET

Bernard Madoff's underlings simply did what they were told by the Ponzi schemer, their lawyers insisted yesterday.

Five of the arch-fraudster's lieutenants are on trial for aiding and abetting the massive $65 billion scam. After five months, the jury in the case is hearing closing arguments and could begin deliberating this week.

Prosecutors have argued that the five—Annette Bongiorno, Daniel Bonventre, Joann Crupi, Jerome O'Hara and George Perez—knew that Madoff was up to no good and helped him cover it up for decades. Lawyers for Bongiorno, a portfolio manager, and O'Hara, a computer program, gave their last pitch to jurors that the government got it wrong.

Madoff, Bongiorno's lawyer, Roland Riopelle said, was "a titan, a guru, a Wall Street genius." Bongiorno "was living in a little bubble of her own" and had no idea she was doing anything illegal.

O'Hara's lawyer referred to his client and Perez as "the dopey computer programmers, the peons." Prosecutors have argued that the two shook Madoff down for more money—and asked for it in diamonds—when they discovered what was going on in 2006, but Gordon Mehler said that O'Hara merely told Madoff he didn't want to work on questionable projects anymore.

"Discomfort does not prove criminal intent," Mehler said, and O'Hara "never intended to engage in criminal behavior."

Mehler also sought to discredit the government's star witness, former Madoff CFO Frank DiPascali, calling him and Madoff "two of the greatest criminal masterminds in human history." DiPascali, who has pleaded guilty in the case, spent weeks on the stand, explaining how Madoff's firm worked and the role allegedly played by the defendants in it.

Closing statements, which began last week, will continue today.

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