White-Collar Crime

Madoff operations chief gets 10 years in $20B swindle; judge says he was not 'evil at heart'

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Federal sentencing guidelines had called for 67-year-old Daniel Bonventre to spend the rest of his life in prison, and the prosecution and the probation department had sought a sentence of 20 years or more.

But on Monday, U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain gave him only 10 years. “You were not an architect of the Ponzi scheme and are not a person who is evil at heart,” she told Bonventre even though the fraud of which he was a part left thousands of lives, including his own, in “smoldering ruins,” the Associated Press reports.

Overpaid and “willfully blind,” as Swain put it, to the big picture of Bernard Madoff’s $20 billion swindle of investors in a Ponzi scheme disguised as a hedge fund, Bonventre helped his boss falsify books and records beginning in 1992. The former Madoff operations chief was convicted earlier this year, along with four other employees, in the only cases to go to trial in the Manhattan federal court prosecution.

The other four defendants are scheduled to be sentenced between now and next Monday, the AP article says. They are former Madoff secretary, Annette Bongiorno, 66; account manager JoAnn Crupi, 53; and Jerome O’Hara, 51, and George Perez, 48, who worked for Madoff as computer programmers.

Sentencing guidelines called for 78-year terms for all five, an earlier Newsday (sub. req.) story reported. The government asked for 20 years for Bonventre and Bongiorno, 14 years for Crupi and eight years for O’Hara and Perez.

In addition to the massive scope of the fraud, the government said the defendants showed a “remarkable lack of contrition” in seeking leniency. Bonventre, for example, portrayed himself as another victim of Madoff and had sought to serve his time in home confinement. Swain said she would ask that he be allowed to do so during the final year of his prison term.

“A jury has found each of the defendants guilty of participating in the largest fraud in United States history,” prosecutors said in a court filing, “but one would not be able to tell that from the defendants’ sentencing submissions.”

Madoff himself was sentenced earlier to a 150-year term. Others who took pleas included his brother, Peter Madoff, a lawyer by training who served as a compliance officer for the investment firm. He also got a 10-year prison term.

Bloomberg, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal Law Blog (sub. req.) also have stories.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “New Indictment Expands Case Against Madoff Ex-Employees, Says Securities Fraud Started in 1970s”

ABAJournal.com: “Jury convicts 5 Madoff staffers; accountant is now last remaining defendant in $17.5B scheme”

Bloomberg: “Ex-Madoff Accountant Konigsberg Pleads Guilty to Fraud”

Reuters: “Accountant’s plea signals more possible scrutiny of Madoff son”

See also:

Fortune: “Madoff son Andrew leaves over $15 million to his fiancĂ©e, family”

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