Madoff employees were puppets of 'grand master,' defense says

Thu Oct 17, 2013 6:44pm EDT
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By Bernard Vaughan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Lawyers for five former employees of Bernard Madoff on Thursday cast their clients as mere puppets under the spell of an awesome, cult-like leader and "pathological liar."

The former staffers are on trial accused of creating false records and transactions at Bernard Madoff Securities LLC until its implosion in 2008. Investors lost about $19 billion in the scam, prosecutors have said.

"They thought he was almost a god," said Eric Breslin, a lawyer for former Madoff portfolio manager Joann Crupi. "They did not want to question anything he did."

Madoff, 75, is serving a 150-year prison sentence after pleading guilty in 2009 to running a Ponzi scheme.

"He was brilliant, you were not," Breslin said of Madoff, whose "shadow will be in this courtroom every single day."

Thursday was the second day of opening arguments in the trial of the former employees. The trial continues next week with prosecution witnesses.

On Wednesday, prosecutors appealed to the jurors' common sense, saying Madoff could not possibly have pulled off his scheme, valued as high as $65 billion, without help.

But Madoff's employees were spellbound by "the all-knowing, grand master of Wall Street," said Andrew Frisch, a lawyer for former Madoff operations director Daniel Bonventre.   Continued...

Former Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities operations officer Daniel Bonventre departs Manhattan Federal Court in New York in this file photo taken August 9, 2013. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/Files