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Judge May Adjust Bail|for Alleged Madoff Co-Conspirator

MANHATTAN (CN) - Bail conditions for accused Madoff co-conspirator Annette Bongiorno, currently set at $5 million, might be adjusted if she volunteers to hand in $2.4 million by Thursday morning, U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain said during arraignment proceedings.

If she does not hand in the money, she will have to turn herself into marshals at Southern District of Florida for transport to and incarceration in New York, Judge Swain said.

"This has been a life-changing event for a whole lot of people, many of whom are probably sitting here," Swain told defense attorneys before a packed courtroom.

The other four ex-Madoff employees who turned themselves in, Daniel Bonventre, Joanne Crupi, Jerome O'Hara and George Perez, pleaded not guilty to complicity in the multibillion dollar, decades-long fraud. All four are out on bail.

Bongiorno's attorney, Roland Gustaf Riopelle, said Bongiorno has been kept under electronic surveillance at her home in Florida and has demonstrated that she is not a flight risk.

Riopelle said that after a storm knocked out the power in her area, his client was "terrified" that the people watching her might think she would try to escape, and made no effort to do so.

Swain argued that "notwithstanding her conduct to date," his client still had the means to try to leave the country with "alleged victim money," adding that $2.4 million "can take people a long way across the United States, Mexico, Canada and across the canals."

Prosecutors say they do not know how much more of the alleged victim money her husband has in his account.

Because Rudy Bongiorno has been unemployed since 1986, any money in his account is his wife's, prosecutors said.

Defense attorneys tried repeatedly to limit public access to the case, asking to have an exhibit of Bongiorno's budget redacted and allow bail to be posted anonymously.

Of the first request, defense attorney Maurice Sercarz said he was concerned that news articles about the evidence would taint a future jury pool.

Prosecutor Julian Moore replied he was "not aware of a First Amendment basis" to redact the evidence.

"Neither am I," said Swain, who said that jury selection could be carried out capably.

Riopelle argued an anonymous bail could protect "potentially shy persons" from adverse press, saying that the New York Post had a particularly "ribald description of the case." That request was also denied.

Defense attorneys argued that Bongiorno, who has a fear of flying, should be allowed to drive to New York for arraignment by checking in at each pre-trial services office.

Prosecutors replied that Bongiorno is "not entitled to any special treatment."

Defense attorneys say that Bongiorno has sworn under penalty of perjury that she has no foreign assets or secret accounts.

"I don't know how much her word means. You haven't met her," Sercarz said.

Prosecutor Lisa Baroni said investigators are still trying to determine how much money Bongiorno has, adding that "the lies she's engaged in the past two decades" outweigh the relatively minor threat of perjury.

Toward the end of the hearing, defense attorneys requested that the deadline be pushed back to Friday, rather than Thursday.

Prosecutors opposed that, as well.

"We believe enough time has gone by," Moore said. "We believe the window has closed."

Sercarz asked the judge what would happen if he advised his client, "Render yourself penniless, live on Mr. Bongiorno's retirement account. I want to give it to her straight, judge."

The judge declined to give a firm "advance determination" about what changes could be made to Bongiorno's bail arrangement if she complies.

Bongiorno's defense attorneys said they will state her intentions at a Thursday morning hearing in federal court at 11:30 a.m.

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