Jailed Madoff Secretary Eyes Trump Criminal-Justice Reform

Annette Bongiorno arrives at federal court in New York on Oct. 8, 2013. The lawyer for the former secretary of imprisoned financier Bernard Madoff is asking that she be released from prison in March. Attorney Roland Riopelle says Bongiorno will have served two thirds of her six-year prison term by March 19 and should be released by then. He cited a law signed by President Donald Trump last week permitting judges to order a prisoner’s release to home confinement after two-thirds of a sentence has been served. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

MANHATTAN (CN) – Two days after President Donald Trump put his signature on bipartisan criminal-justice reform, one notable federal prisoner quickly sought to benefit from the new law: former Bernie Madoff secretary Annette Bongiorno.

“I am pleased to report that Mrs. Bongiomo is in generally good spirits, although she does find the holiday season a bit depressing,” Bongiorno’s attorney Roland Riopelle said in a 3-page letter on Saturday. “She is in decent health for a 70-year-old, but suffers from the aches and pains that come with age, and she continues to struggle with her pulmonary problems – asthma and COPD.” 

Trump’s First Step Act makes elderly prisoners who served two-thirds of their sentence eligible for direct release to home confinement.

“Moreover, the new statute permits her to make a direct application to the court for this relief, and Mrs. Bongiorno respectfully makes the application contained in this letter to avail herself of this relief,” Riopelle wrote.

When U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain sentenced Bongiorno to six years imprisonment in December 2014, she noted at the tme that Madoff’s assistant was not “fundamentally corrupt” but was still “was a knowing and willing participant who made a choice to participate in the securities fraud.”

Bongiorno surrendered early the next year and has been imprisoned since that time at Florida’s Federal Correctional Center Coleman.

“She remains an ‘old fashioned’ family-oriented person, who would benefit greatly from the release to home confinement that the First Step Act provides, because it would permit her to see more of her extended family more often than she is able to do so now,” Riopelle’s letter states.

“If the court is inclined to grant this application, it may do so by executing this letter at the ‘So Ordered’ signature line below,” it continues. “And whatever the court’s decision may be, Mrs. Bongiorno and I wish Your Honor a Happy Holiday Season and a healthy 2019.”

Christmas came and went without a decision by the judge, and the docket has remained quiet since the letter’s filing on Dec. 22.

However Judge Swain rules, Bongiorno’s former boss will not benefit from the same relief.

Madoff received a 150-year sentence in 2009 for perpetrating the biggest Ponzi scheme in U.S. history. 

Then-U.S. District Judge Denny Chin, who is now sitting on the Second Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, excoriated the disgraced financier for carrying out an “extraordinarily evil” deed that “was not merely a bloodless crime that takes place on paper but one that takes a staggering human toll.” 

Bongiorno was one of five Madoff associates who claimed to have been in the dark about the massive fraud, but a federal jury rejected their protestations of innocence.

In rejecting the government’s call for a 20-year sentence, Judge Swain called Bongiorno “a pampered, compliant and grossly overcompensated clerical worker who supervised other clerical workers with a ferocious enthusiasm.”

Riopelle said that his client Bongiorno has since become a “model prisoner.”

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