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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A former manager and a former computer programmer at Bernard Madoff's firm were sentenced to prison on Tuesday for helping the convicted fraudster run a multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme.
Annette Bongiorno, who began working as Madoff's secretary in the 1960s and had become a manager when the firm collapsed in 2008, was sentenced to six years in prison, although this was below the eight- to 10-year term even her lawyers had requested.
The programmer, Jerome O'Hara, was sentenced a few hours later to 2-1/2 years in prison.
Both defendants were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain, who presided over the trial in which they and three former colleagues were convicted of securities fraud, conspiracy and other charges in March.
"Dreams and trust were shattered, charitable foundations wiped out, and innumerable victims left to wonder what's next," she said during O'Hara's sentencing.
The judge also ordered Bongiorno and O'Hara to forfeit a symbolic $155 billion and $19.7 billion, respectively, jointly with other defendants who worked at Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC.
The sentences come two days prior to the sixth anniversary of the uncovering of Madoff's fraud, on Dec. 11, 2008.
Madoff is serving a 150-year prison term after pleading guilty in 2009 to running the fraud that cost investors more than an estimated $17 billion in principal.
Prosecutors accused Bongiorno, O'Hara, operations director Daniel Bonventre, manager Joann Crupi and computer programmer George Perez of helping Madoff hide his fraud through fake documents and bogus transactions.
The defendants have said Madoff deceived them into believing his business was legitimate. They are expected to appeal.
Swain said Bongiorno was not a "coldly calculating participant" in her boss's Ponzi scheme, but willfully blinded herself to the "corrupt illogicality" of what was going on.
"She could and should have looked at what was in front of her," the judge said.
Prior to being sentenced, a tearful Bongiorno, 66, apologized to victims of Madoff's fraud, calling her own ignorance "so severe it caused me to become a criminal.
"I didn't know what was happening," she said. "I didn't mean to hurt you."
O'Hara, 51, later told Swain he was "terribly sorry my work was used to further those crimes."
Fifteen people have been convicted in connection with Madoff's fraud. Bonventre was sentenced on Monday to 10 years in prison. Perez is scheduled to be sentenced on Wednesday, followed by Crupi on Monday.
Reporting by Nate Raymond in New York. Editing by Alden Bentley, Paul Simao and Andre Grenon