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Ex-Madoff aide must stay in jail

Former secretary charged in fraud

Rudy Bongiorno (center), husband of Annette Bongiorno, a longtime aide to Bernard Madoff, leaves federal court with attorney Nina Mandel after a hearing for his wife yesterday in Florida. Rudy Bongiorno (center), husband of Annette Bongiorno, a longtime aide to Bernard Madoff, leaves federal court with attorney Nina Mandel after a hearing for his wife yesterday in Florida. (Joe Skipper/ Reuters)
By Patricia Hurtado
Bloomberg News / November 23, 2010

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NEW YORK — Annette Bongiorno, Bernard Madoff’s longtime secretary indicted this month in his Ponzi scheme, lost her bid for bail and was ordered by a federal magistrate in Florida to be taken to New York to face charges.

Bongiorno, 62, who started working for Madoff in 1968, shortly after she graduated from high school, is charged in a federal indictment with conspiracy, securities fraud, and tax evasion. US Magistrate Judge Ann E. Vitunac in West Palm Beach yesterday denied Bongiorno’s request to be released with electronic monitoring or under house arrest.

Bongiorno worked as Madoff’s personal secretary in the 1980s. She also had clerical duties at Bernard Madoff Investment Securities LLC. Clients who discovered the wrong Social Security numbers on their statements were told to call Bongiorno, according to a copy of one such notice.

She took $14.4 million out of the investment fund by creating sham trades in her own account, where she deposited a total of $920,000 from 1975 to 2008, the government charged.

Bongiorno also received $325,000 in off-the-books payments from the firm, prosecutors charged. She faces a prison sentence of as long as 75 years if convicted of all charges, federal authorities said.

Maurice Sercarz, Bongiorno’s lawyer, said in court that he was continuing to work with federal prosecutors and agents in New York to come up with at least five family members or friends of Bongiorno’s who can post $2 million in assets to secure a $5 million bond.

Assistant US Attorney Marie Villafaña said at yesterday’s hearing that the government might not accept one property as collateral because the owner has a previous felony conviction.

“I’m not sure he can be used as a surety,’’ Villafaña said.

The Brooklyn, N.Y., storefront is worth more than $975,000, Sercarz said.

Last week, prosecutors demanded at least $3.5 million in hard assets to secure a $7 million bond for Bongiorno, who lives in Manhasset, N.Y., and has a winter home in Boca Raton, Fla. They lowered the amounts to be consistent with the bond terms given to another former Madoff employee, Joann Crupi, of Westfield, N.J., who was also arrested on Nov. 18.

Crupi, who was hired by the firm in 1983 as a keypunch operator, was released on bail on Nov. 19.

Prosecutors have been seeking to seize more than $2 million in cash and the New York and Florida homes from Bongiorno and her husband. The couple is fighting the seizure attempt.

Madoff, 72, pleaded guilty last year to fraud and was sentenced to 150 years in prison for using new investors’ funds for payouts to existing ones in a scheme that ran from at least the early 1990s.

At the time of Madoff’s arrest, his firm’s statements reflected 4,900 accounts with $65 billion in nonexistent investments, according to Irving Picard, the trustee overseeing the bankruptcy of Madoff Securities. Investors lost about $20 billion in principal.