Bernard Madoff's ex-secretary gets N.Y. house arrest

Sunday, January 9, 2011

NEW YORK -- The longtime secretary of financier Bernard Madoff made bail Friday and will await her New York trial on fraud charges while under house arrest.

Annette Bongiorno, 62, of Boca Raton, Fla., was released so she could be taken to her second home in Manhasset, Long Island.

Bongiorno had been jailed in Manhattan after failing to post $5 million bail.

At recent bail hearings, prosecutors had sought to convince U.S. District Judge Taylor Swain that Bongiorno should stay locked up because she could use alleged proceeds of Madoff's fraud to flee.

But after learning the government had moved to freeze $7.6 million in Bongiorno's assets, Swain agreed to lower the bail to $3 million.

Authorities allege Bongiorno helped Madoff cover up a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme that made her wealthy as it wiped out the life savings of thousands of clients.

Prosecutors say Bongiorno deposited about $920,000 in her own Madoff account from 1975 to 2008 and withdrew more than $14 million in investor funds over the same period to buy expensive homes and other luxuries.

Madoff, 72, pleaded guilty to fraud charges last year and is serving a 150-year prison sentence.

An investigation continues to determine who knew about or assisted in Madoff's two-decade fraud. Still under scrutiny are Madoff's brother Peter and son Andrew, who were executives in the Madoff firm's market-making and proprietary-trading business. Neither has been charged.

Madoff's eldest son, Mark, who had also worked at the firm, committed suicide on the two-year anniversary of his father's arrest.

Bongiorno pleaded not guilty on Friday to the new indictment. A pretrial hearing was set for Jan. 14.

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