Annette Bongiorno, who worked at the firm of convicted swindler Bernard Madoff for 40 years, is struggling to make bail on criminal charges as the case becomes more notorious, her lawyer said on Monday.
Madoff's eldest son, Mark Madoff, 46, a former executive in the family-run firm, committed suicide on Saturday, the second anniversary of his father's arrest and revelations that he had run a multibillion dollar, worldwide investment fraud for decades.
As this case becomes more notorious by the minute -- you have somebody hanging themself -- it is more difficult to find people willing to be co-signors of her bond, Bongiorno's lawyer, Roland Riopelle, said after a bail hearing in U.S. District Court in New York.
Bongiorno, 62, has been under house arrest in Boca Raton, Florida, since November 18, when she and another longtime employee, Jo Ann Crupi, were indicted on charges including conspiracy and securities fraud.
Bond has been set at $5 million, to be secured by $2 million in cash and property, and requiring Bongiorno to find a number of co-signors. Eight people have been criminally charged in the case, including Bernard Madoff.
The window is closing on my willingness to keep the status quo of house arrest in Florida, U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain said during the hearing.
The judge said should there be no resolution by Wednesday, then we will need to consider less comfortable surroundings and transportation to New York, where Bongiorno would be jailed pending trial.
Madoff, 72, is serving a 150-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to orchestrating the massive fraud. U.S. prosecutors initially estimated the fraud took in about $65 billion. A court-appointed trustee has put the amount of investor money lost at about $20 billion.
A U.S. prosecutor, Julian Moore, told the court on Monday that over the four decades of Bongiorno's employment at Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, she withdrew about $14.5 million from its investment advisory account. The government also says Madoff paid her more than $300,000 in cash from a special account between 2004 and 2008.
She was not simply a secretary but a key leader in this massive fraud, Moore said. He said any money she made, or the proceeds from the future sales of her two multimillion dollar properties, belonged to the thousands of victims of the fraud.
The case is USA v Bongiorno et al, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 10-228.
(Reporting by Grant McCool, editing by Gerald E. McCormick)