NEW YORK (AP) — Jurors in the first criminal trial stemming from Bernard Madoff's epic fraud were soon to start weighing the charges against five of the fallen financier's ex-employees after summations wrapped up Friday.
With a judge embarking on lengthy legal instructions, deliberations looked likely to begin Monday in a case that asks jurors to determine whether the former workers were Madoff's conspirators or his dupes.
For jurors and observers alike, the five-month-long trial has provided a window on what the government has learned about Madoff's massive Ponzi scheme since it collapsed in 2008.
Madoff has said he acted alone in cheating thousands of investors out of nearly $20 billion in a decades-long Ponzi scheme. But federal prosecutors say five back-office subordinates gave him vital help in weaving his financial fiction.
"Each of these defendants played a crucial role in the fraud," Assistant U.S. Attorney John Zach told jurors during closing arguments, which spanned more than a week. He said the five told thousands of lies to customers, financial institutions, regulators and the Internal Revenue Service.
But the defendants say they, like Madoff's investors, were fooled by masters at deceit.
Madoff and his former finance chief, star prosecution witness Frank DiPascali, made it their business "to keep the fraud as contained and cabined as humanly possible because it if gets out, we are done — we are spending 150 years in jail, as Mr. Madoff is now," defense lawyer Larry Krantz said. He represents former Madoff computer programmer George Perez.
While DiPascali pleaded guilty and acknowledged he had lied to his colleagues, prosecutors strove Friday to tell jurors it made sense to trust his testimony.
"Who in the world can tell you the inside story of a fraud, other than a participant in the fraud?" Assistant U.S. Attorney Randall Jackson said.
Besides Perez, the defendants include another computer programmer, Jerome O'Hara; Annette Bongiorno, Madoff's longtime secretary; Daniel Bonventre, his director of operations for investments and JoAnn Crupi.
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