Ex-aide says Madoff workers duped investor's account postmortem

Wed Dec 4, 2013 7:14pm EST
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By Joseph Ax

NEW YORK (Reuters) - To hear his former aide tell it, even a client's death posed no problem for Bernard Madoff as he perpetrated his massive Ponzi scheme.

Testifying in a trial in New York on Wednesday, the former aide, Frank DiPascali, said an estate lawyer wrote Madoff's firm a letter in 1995 seeking the account balances for the late Jacques Amsellem, who had been a Madoff client since the 1970s.

Madoff typically decided how much money each account should earn in a given year, and Amsellem's account showed too high a balance at the time of his death, DiPascali said.

So two of his employees, Joann Crupi and Annette Bongiorno, wrote up false statements for a new account with losses to counterbalance the unintended gains.

"It's like musical chairs," DiPascali told jurors in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

DiPascali, who has pleaded guilty and is cooperating with the government, was testifying in the trial of Bongiorno, Crupi, and three other former employees who are charged with helping Madoff pull off the fraud.

The five defendants, who also include back office director Daniel Bonventre and computer programmers Jerome O'Hara and George Perez, have said they were duped by Madoff into believing that his business was legitimate. Madoff, who is serving a 150-year prison sentence, claimed he acted alone in masterminding the scheme, which unraveled in 2008 and cost customers an estimated $17 billion.

In his second full day of testimony, DiPascali described various ways in which the five defendants participated in the scheme, revealing a staggering level of detail required to keep the scheme hidden from outsiders.   Continued...

Bernard Madoff (R), who confessed to defrauding investors of 50 billion dollars, arrives home after a hearing at Federal Court, in New York, January 5, 2009. REUTERS/Chip East