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Former Madoff account manager sentenced to 6 years in prison for role in $20 billion fraud

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NEW YORK — A former account manager for Bernard Madoff was sentenced Monday to six years in prison for her role in his epic multibillion-dollar fraud, ending a series of proceedings for five former employees that resulted in prison terms dramatically below what prosecutors sought.

U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain announced the sentence for 53-year-old JoAnn Crupi, calling it "a justly harsh result for someone whose work was so integral to the unspeakable fraud perpetrated by Bernard Madoff."

Crupi, of Westfield, New Jersey, said Madoff kept her in the dark, even angrily denouncing her plan to learn more about securities in school.

"He got furious and started yelling that if I took the class he would fire me and make sure I never worked on Wall Street," she said. "I cannot begin to tell you the immense sorrow I feel for the thousands who were victimized by Bernard Madoff. Knowing my work played a role in this fraud will cause me shame and remorse for the rest of my life."

Crupi started working at Madoff Securities in 1983 as a keypunch operator. By 2002, the judge said, she added a fake trade to her own investment account to show phony tax losses, proving her knowledge of the fraud.

"She committed despicable crimes," the judge said. Swain said Crupi must submit to electronic monitoring for two years after her release, though the judge will recommend she be permitted to spend the last year of prison in home detention.

Federal sentencing guidelines had called for life prison terms for Crupi and four others: Daniel Bonventre, 67, Madoff's director of operations; Annette Bongiorno, 66, his longtime secretary; and computer programmers Jerome O'Hara, 51, and George Perez, 48. Prosecutors recommended Bonventre and Bongiorno receive well over 20 years in prison while Crupi, O'Hara and Perez should receive fewer years for lesser roles.

Prosecutors said all deserved more than the 10 years imposed on Madoff's brother, Peter, who pleaded guilty as Madoff's compliance director.

Swain, though, found none were aware of the extent of Madoff's multidecade fraud that cost thousands of investors nearly $20 billion. She sentenced Bonventre to 10 years in prison while Bongiorno received six years and O'Hara and Perez each got 2 1/2 years.

Madoff, 76, is serving a 150-year prison term imposed just months after his Ponzi scheme was revealed in December 2008. By then, accounts he told investors contained more than $60 billion had dwindled to a few hundred million dollars. More than $10 billion has since been recovered by a court-appointed trustee.

Assistant U.S. Attorney John Zack cited a letter from a Madoff victim saying Crupi communicated for a decade that the victim's money was safe.

Zack said a significant sentence was necessary because Crupi faced a choice so many people face in their lives: whether to report something that's wrong or let it continue because the money is good or there are personal rewards.

"Her being here was not because she was careless, negligent or fooled," he said. "She chose self-interest over the right thing."

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