Ex-Madoff Secretary Gets Six Years, Programmer Two-And-A-Half

Dec 10 2014 | 1:55am ET

A former top Bernard Madoff executive’s short stature has won her a shorter prison term.

Annette Bongiorno, the Ponzi schemer’s longtime secretary and a manager at his firm, was sentenced to six years in prison—far less than the 20 years sought by prosecutors, and less even than the eight to 10 years sought by her lawyer.

Bongiorno was convicted of aiding Madoff’s $65 billion Ponzi scheme in March alongside four other former employees, four of whom are being sentenced this week. On Monday, Madoff’s former operations chief, Daniel Bonventre, received a 10-year term, and a few hours after Bongiorno’s sentencing, former Madoff computer programmer Jerome O’Hara was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.

U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain explained her leniency, saying that Bongiorno was not a “coldly calculating participant” in the fraud. She added that the four-foot-six-inch Bongiorno, who is 66, could be in a “vulnerable position in a prison facility” due to “her age and unusually small stature.”

But Swain said Bongiorno “could and should have looked at what was in front of her.” For her part, a tearful Bongiorno said she “didn’t know what was happening” and “didn’t mean to hurt” Madoff’s victims.

Swain also ordered Bongiorno to forfeit $155 billion—the amount that went into and out of Madoff’s firm over its last 20 years. Bongiorno joined Madoff’s business in the 1960s.

The judge also showed leniency towards O’Hara, who had faced more than eight years in prison. In addition to his two-and-a-half year sentence, O’Hara was ordered to forfeit $19.7 billion.

O’Hara told Swain that he was “terribly sorry my work was used to further those crimes.”

O’Hara’s fellow programmer, George Perez, is set to be sentenced tomorrow. The last of the five Madoff lieutenants to learn her fate will be portfolio manager Joann Crupi, who will be sentenced on Monday. Prosecutors are seeking more than eight years for Perez and more than 14 for Crupi.

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