01.07.11 8:48 PM ET
Bernie Madoff’s Secretary Annette Bongiorno Out on Bail
By the time 62-year-old Annette Bongiorno faced reporters hanging around federal court in Manhattan Friday, she said she was ready for a shower and a warm glass of “real whole milk,” not the skim milk she has been fed since being jailed in West Palm Beach, Florida Dec. 21 for failure to post $5 million bail.
Looking even smaller than the 4 foot 10 inches, 135 pounds she is officially listed as on prison intake sheets, Bongiorno said she had been scared since leaving her $1.3 million Boca Raton, Florida, home for a series of holding cells en route to New York. Although her lawyer, Maurice Sercarz, has repeatedly said Bongiorno is terrified of flying, the Bureau of Prisons put her on several flights en route to New York. “She has been through the mill,” Sercarz said Friday.
Bongiorno faces 75 years in prison on charges related to her role in Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. As a key assistant to Madoff for 40 years, Bongiorno allegedly got more than $14 million from the Ponzi scheme while fabricating thousands of documents for Madoff.
U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain ordered Bongiorno to remain under “strict home incarceration” at her $2.6 million Manhasset, Long Island home, after reducing her bail to a $3 million personal recognizance bond. That bond is secured by eight co-signers who could lose their homes or other personal assets should Bongiorno elect to flee rather than appear in court.
“She has been through the mill,” Bongiorno’s lawyer said.
More importantly, the judge said she had examined lists of assets held by Bongiorno and her husband Rudy that were submitted separately by the defense and the government, which recently moved to seize $7.6 million from the Bongiornos’ accounts.
Declaring there was “sufficient overlap” between the two lists, the judge said Bongiorno no longer had enough unrestricted assets to be a genuine flight risk. Her travel is essentially restricted to Long Island, New York City, and Westchester County.
Allan Dodds Frank is a business investigative correspondent who specializes in white collar crime stories. He also is the former president of the Overseas Press Club of America, one of the many journalism organizations that protests the arrests of journalists abroad and repression of freedom of speech.