Prosecutors appeal to common sense in trial of Madoff employees

Thu Oct 17, 2013 8:28am EDT
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By Bernard Vaughan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal prosecutor urged jurors on Wednesday to use their common sense to find five former employees of Bernard Madoff guilty of helping him carry out a massive fraud on his investors.

"For more than 30 years, Bernard Madoff ran a multibillion- dollar fraud that turned out to be the biggest Ponzi scheme in history," Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Schwartz said.

The defendants - a director of operations of Madoff's office, two computer programmers and two portfolio managers - are accused of creating false records and transactions to fool investors and regulators. They have pleaded not guilty to dozens of charges, including securities fraud and conspiracy to defraud Madoff's clients.

"These are the people who helped him do it," Schwartz said as he made opening arguments for the prosecution in a packed ceremonial courtroom, used for major trials.

Investors lost about $19 billion in the scheme, which Madoff's firm valued as high as $65 billion, Schwartz said. Madoff, 75, is serving a 150-year prison sentence after pleading guilty in 2009.

Arguments started after U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain spent more than a week selecting the jury for the trial, which is expected to take five months.

The eight women and four men making up the 12-person jury were selected from 400 candidates, an unusually large pool. Among them are two teachers in the Bronx, a part-time art teacher and mother of three from Rockland County and an employee of New York's Human Resources Administration.

Schwartz described allegations specific to the five defendants, noting that "each of them got rich."   Continued...