MANHATTAN (CN) – A woman accused of assisting in Bernard Madoff’s multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme was granted an extension of her home incarceration, but ordered to produce a list and the location of all her assets next Tuesday.
Attorneys for Annette Bongiorno learned in a Wednesday hearing that their client must surrender all of her admitted assets of $2.4 million or surrender herself to Florida federal marshals for remanding to New York.
The four other ex-Madoff employees, Daniel Bonventre, Joann Crupi, Jerome O’Hara and George Perez, pleaded not guilty on Wednesday to complicity in the decades-long fraud and are released on bail.
Bongiorno has not been able to post her $5 million bail, and prosecutor Julian Moore said Wednesday that “the window has closed” for her to avoid prison.
But at a Thursday hearing, that window cracked open a bit.
After both sides argued for more than an hour, U.S. District Judge Laura Swain extended Bongiorno’s home incarceration until a hearing scheduled for next Tuesday, at which time the defense must present affidavits listing the scope and locations of all of her assets.
Moore argued that every asset belonging to Bongiorno and her husband, Rudy, who has been unemployed since 1986, is “victim money.” He said Bongiorno held the money in multiple accounts at approximately 13 banks, and that at least 10 of those accounts have been actively transferring assets.
“The money is constantly moving,” he said.
Defense attorney Roland Riopelle said that Bongiorno agreed to an asset-freeze agreement, a $1.8 million seizure and the sale of her Manhasset home in a letter to the government on Sept. 30, 2009. Riopelle said the government never took Bongiorno up on the offer or even answered the letter.
Defense attorney Maurice Sercarz shot down prosecutors’ assertions that Bongiorno had “hidden money” that could make her a flight risk as a “Johnny Come Lately” argument.
He said that his client “has done nothing to evade justice” and has a documented fear of flying after an “incident” that she felt was a “near miss.”
Bongiorno’s passport, currently held by government, shows that she has not flown since that time, Sercarz said.
Defense attorneys argued that if the government had seized her assets, her flight risk without bail would not be an issue.
“It is a mystery to me and those at the defense table why they haven’t seized these assets,” Riopelle said. “We’re completely flummoxed.”
Judge Swain directed defense attorneys to file verifiable asset affidavits on Tuesday for both Annette and Rudy Bongiorno, after which proposals can be submitted for disbursements of the assets and Bongiorno’s restraints.
Right before the hearing ended, a police officer discussed a means to track Bongiorno’s movements by GPS on her person and her car, should she continue to serve house arrest at her Manhasset property when she is remanded.
Outside the courtroom, Bongiorno’s attorneys appeared relieved by Swain’s decision.
“Phew,” defense attorneys Riopelle and Sercarz said in near unison as they exited the federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan. Both separately added, “We have a lot of work to do.”
Hearings continue next Tuesday morning.