A former manager at Bernard Madoff's firm was sentenced to six years in prison on Tuesday for helping the convicted fraudster carry out a Ponzi scheme that caused investors to lose billions of dollars.
Annette Bongiorno, who worked for Madoff from the 1960s until the firm's collapse in 2008, was the second of five former employees to be sentenced after being convicted in March of securities fraud, conspiracy and other charges in a Manhattan federal court.
U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain also ordered Bongiorno, 66, to forfeit $155 billion, a symbolic amount for which she and the other defendants who worked at Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC would be jointly responsible.
The sentencing came a day after former Madoff operations director Daniel Bonventre was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Swain said Bongiorno, who was indicted in 2010, was not a "coldly calculating participant" in her boss's Ponzi scheme, but willfully blinded herself to the "corrupt illogicality" of what was going on.
"She could and should have looked at what was in front of her," the judge said.
Prior to being sentenced, a tearful Bongiorno apologized to victims of Madoff's fraud, calling her own ignorance "so severe it caused me to become a criminal.
"I didn't know what was happening," she said. "I didn't mean to hurt you."
Prosecutors accused Bongiorno, Bonventre, former portfolio manager Joann Crupi and former computer programmers Jerome O'Hara and George Perez of helping Madoff hide his fraud from auditors, government regulators and the public through fake documents and bogus transactions.
The defendants have said Madoff deceived them into believing his investment advisory business was legitimate. They are expected to appeal their convictions.
Lawyers for Bongiorno had sought a sentence of eight to 10 years in prison.
O'Hara is expected to be sentenced later on Tuesday, Perez on Wednesday and Crupi next Monday.
Madoff is serving a 150-year prison term after pleading guilty in 2009 to running a scheme that cost investors more than an estimated $17 billion in principal.
Fifteen people have been convicted at trial or have pleaded guilty in connection with Madoff's fraud.