Jury selection started in the trial of five ex-employees of Bernard Madoff, including his former personal secretary and two computer programmers accused of helping carry out the biggest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history.
U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain in Manhattan, who said the criminal trial could last five months, today is questioning a group of about 300 potential jurors who completed questionnaires last week.
The trial, slated to start yesterday, was delayed a day by Swain without explanation, according to the case’s online court docket. When the jurors are selected, prosecutors will begin opening arguments.
The former employees, all of whom have pleaded not guilty, are Annette Bongiorno, who worked with Madoff for 40 years and helped recruit investors; Joann Crupi, a back-office worker who managed large accounts; ex-operations chief Daniel Bonventre and computer programmers Jerome O’Hara and George Perez.
The proceeding will offer the fullest public accounting yet of how Madoff carried out the fraud, which cost thousands of investors $17 billion in lost principal and billions more in imaginary profit. Earlier guilty pleas by Madoff, 75, and some of his top aides averted a trial until now.
Madoff was arrested Dec. 11, 2008, after telling federal agents that his company was a sham. Four months later, he pleaded guilty to 11 charges including securities fraud and wire fraud and was sentenced to 150 years in prison. While he confessed to swindling his clients, he refused to admit to a conspiracy charge that would have required him to implicate others, people familiar with the case said at the time.
In August 2009, the U.S. won a guilty plea from Frank DiPascali, Madoff’s finance chief, who agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and explain how he and others helped Madoff defraud investors. David Friehling, an accountant for Madoff, also pleaded guilty to helping him prepare phony tax returns and is cooperating with prosecutors.
The case is U.S. v. O’Hara, 10-cr-00228, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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