NEW YORK — Three of imprisoned financier Bernard Madoff's managers and two computer programmers played a "crucial role" in his mammoth fraud by helping him churn out fake documents to fool thousands of investors into thinking they were worth millions of dollars when he'd squandered their money for four decades, a prosecutor told jurors in closing arguments Wednesday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Zach urged jurors to reject the testimony of two defendants and arguments on behalf of three others that they, too, were victims of Madoff's nearly $20 billion fraud.
"The fraud is staggering," Zach told jurors who had watched evidence dispensed by the spoonful over more than five months at the first trial to result from the fraud. "Each of these defendants played a crucial role in the fraud."
He said the defendants had told "thousands and thousands of lies" to customers, financial institutions, regulators and the Internal Revenue Service. Each of them has pleaded not guilty.
Zach showed the jury photographs of each of the defendants as he explained their role in the fraud, beginning with Daniel Bonventre, Madoff's director of operations.
He said the 68-year-old Bonventre lied on the witness stand when he insisted last week that he ran the legitimate side of Madoff's business while he was kept in the dark about the fraudulent private investment side of the operation.
"He's not telling you the truth about his role in the fraud," Zach said.
He said Bonventre oversaw the account in which investors poured nearly $20 billion since 1970, hiding it from auditors and regulators and dipping into it after 2000 to help make the then-failing brokerage side of the business seem profitable.
Zach said Bonventre lied to get loans, stole money and got rich while he was paid more than $15 million by Madoff from 1992 through 2008. He started at the firm in 1968.
"He became wealthy and rich," the prosecutor said. "The perks, the rewards of committing these frauds, were huge."
Zach also said testimony by Madoff's former secretary, Annette Bongiorno, was not credible.
He said she was responsible for billions of dollars in fake trades and oversaw a massive rewriting of customer accounts while making more than $18 million in a career that also started in 1968.
He mocked her testimony too, recalling that she said she "wasn't one that splurged on anything major."
Displaying a photograph of a Bentley she purchased, he said: "She had a Bentley. Anyone would know that a Bentley is a splurge."
A picture of a $6.5 million condominium she bought in Boca Raton, Florida, was also shown to jurors.
The prosecutor described account manager JoAnn Crupi as a key player in the accounting fraud, saying she was "one of the people frantically writing checks to the very end" to benefit her friends and family.
And he called computer programmers Jerome O'Hara and George Perez "the oil that made this fraud work," saying they developed computer programs to manufacture false books and records.
The fraud collapsed in December 2008 when Madoff ran out of money and confessed to FBI agents that his business was a sham. He pleaded guilty and is serving a 150-year sentence at a federal prison.
Closing arguments are expected to run into next week, when the jurors likely will begin deliberations.