Appeals court upholds convictions of former Madoff employees

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Five former employees of imprisoned Wall Street swindler Bernard Madoff were convicted at a fair trial, a federal appeals court concluded Wednesday.

The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said evidence offered at a six-month trial that ended in 2014 was sufficient to convict the former workers, including Madoff’s longtime secretary Annette Bongiorno, former director of operations Daniel Bonventre and ex-account manager JoAnn Crupi.

Madoff, who revealed his multi-decade, multibillion-dollar swindle of thousands of investors in December 2008, pleaded guilty to fraud and is serving a 150-year prison sentence.

Lawyers for the ex-workers had challenged their convictions on multiple counts including conspiracy, securities fraud, bank fraud and falsifying records. They said court rulings, prosecutors’ misconduct and insufficient evidence cheated their clients of a fair trial.

But the three-judge panel that heard the case less than a month ago disagreed.

The appeals court rejected the claim that government misconduct warranted a new trial, saying instructions by the trial judge, Laura Taylor Swain, mitigated any potential harm.

“While defendants assert that the prosecution here repeatedly mischaracterized the record, the district court reasonably concluded that, in most instances, the challenged arguments represented fair — if aggressive — inferences that the jury was entitled to draw from the evidence,” the 2nd Circuit said.

The ex-employees are serving prison sentences ranging from 2 1/2 years to 10 years in prison.

Crupi’s attorney, Eric Breslin, said the ruling “is quite clearly not the outcome we were hoping for and does not reflect in our view the seriousness of some of the government’s misconduct.”

Attorney Andrew Frisch, representing Bonventre, said the defendants “were victims of Madoff’s misuse of his iconic status and are paying for it with more than just money.” He said the ruling was “disappointing and serves to encourage what the trial judge in this case characterized as conduct unworthy of government prosecutors.”

Attorney Roland Riopelle, representing Bongiorno, declined to comment.

Matthew L. Schwartz, who was on the trial’s prosecution team but now is in private practice, said in a statement he hoped the ruling “will provide some measure of closure to the victims of the defendants’ scheme.”

“The evidence we presented over nearly six months of trial demonstrated that each of the five defendants was a ‘vital’ and ‘integral’ member of Madoff’s scheme,” he said in the statement.

According to Federal Bureau of Prisons records, Bongiorno, 67, and Crupi, 54, are due for release from prison in May 2020 while Bonventre, 69, is scheduled to be released in November 2023. The other two employees, computer programmers, are due to be released from prison shortly.