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March 24, 2014

US Jury Convicts 5 Madoff Staffers in Giant Fraud

by VOA News

A U.S. federal jury has convicted five former employees of imprisoned investment manager Bernard Madoff on charges they helped their boss hide scams that cheated investors out of billions of dollars.

Monday's jury verdict in New York caps a nearly six-month trial in which prosecutors used hundreds of exhibits and dozens of witnesses to convict the defendants.  The verdict came after 18 hours of deliberations over four days.

Jurors found the accused (chief investment officer Daniel Bonventre, portfolio managers Annette Bongiorno and Joan Crupi, and computer programmers Jerome O'Hara and George Perez) guilty of fraud and conspiracy to defraud.  

Madoff is serving a 150-year prison term, after pleading guilty to the giant fraud, known as a Ponzi scheme.  The decades-long scam, which inflated investment earnings and cost investors nearly $20 billion, collapsed during the 2008 global financial crisis.

The list of victims included some of the biggest names in American sports and entertainment, including retired baseball icon Sandy Koufax, Hollywood director Steven Spielberg, actor Kevin Bacon, entertainer Zsa Zsa Gabor and talk show host Larry King.

The prosecution's case was largely built on the testimony of Madoff's former finance chief and five other insiders who pleaded guilty and agreed to cooperate.

For their part, defense lawyers argued their clients were victims of Madoff's fraud as well.  They argued their clients lost millions of dollars they had invested with Madoff.