Nearly two years after Bernard Madoff's arrest, hardened investigators continue to take aim at former workers of the disgraced financier they say knew about — and often benefited from — his multibillion dollar Ponzi scheme.
A half dozen employees have been charged since FBI agents showed up at Madoff's penthouse apartment in Manhattan on Dec. 11, 2008 — the latest two back office workers who spent their entire careers working for his secretive investment advisory service.
Joann Crupi and Annette Bongiorno were arrested on Thursday on charges they helped Madoff dupe investors for decades by making fictitious investments with fixed returns.
Crupi's attorney, Eric Breslin, told a judge on Thursday that federal authorities had grilled his client for hours on end at least three times since the scandal broke. Her interrogators, he added, were "brutally candid" about allegations against her.
"We've known this action has been coming for a long time," Breslin said about the arrest.
He complained that FBI agents had "dragged" Crupi out of her Westfield, N.J., home at dawn even though she had volunteered to surrender to avoid "being arrested in front of her two small children."
Both women remained in custody while bail conditions were being worked out. Prosecutors said they could face lengthy prison terms if convicted of conspiracy, securities fraud and falsifying records.
Madoff, 72, is serving a 150-year sentence in federal prison after admitting that he ran his scheme for at least two decades, cheating thousands of individuals, charities, celebrities and institutional investors. Losses are estimated at around $20 billion, making it the biggest investment fraud in U.S. history.
The government is relying on the cooperation of Madoff's former finance chief, Frank DiPascali, to bring cases against other employees. Court papers say DiPascali, who has pleaded guilty, gave orders to Crupi and others on behalf of Madoff to create "false and fraudulent books and records."
Still under investigation but so far not charged are Madoff's brother, Peter, and sons Andrew and Mark, who were executives in the Madoff firm's market-making and proprietary-trading business. All have denied any wrongdoing.
An indictment unsealed in federal court Thursday in Manhattan alleges that Crupi, 49, and Bongiorno, 62, of Boca Raton, Fla. "'executed' trades in the accounts of (wealthy clients) only on paper ... and that achieved annual rates of return that had been predetermined by Madoff."
Prosecutors, citing internal communications, say Bongiorno used a computer program designed to backdate trades and manipulate account statements.
"I need the ability to give any settlement date I want," she wrote to a manager in the early 1990s, according to the indictment.
Crupi was charged with creating false records to cover her boss' tracks amid reviews by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Prosecutors say that as the scheme unraveled, she "became aware that client redemption requests bore no relationship to (the business') cash on hand, which by late 2008 was woefully insufficient to meet those requests," the indictment said.
Seized records show that Bongiorno deposited about $920,000 in her own Madoff account from 1975 to 2008 and withdrew more than $14 million over the same period, the indictment said.
Prosecutors allege Crupi also cashed in: In February 2008, they say Madoff gave her $2.7 million that she used to buy a beach house. She received another "off the books" payment of $2.2 million four months later, prosecutors say.
Crupi's lawyer suggested her only crime was being loyal to an epic swindler.
"It's the only job she ever had," he said.
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