The former chief financial officer for disgraced financier Bernard Madoff pleaded guilty to criminal charges including fraud, money laundering and tax evasion. He also admitted today that he is cooperating with authorities probing the $65 billion swindle.
Frank DiPascali appeared in Manhattan federal court this afternoon, telling the judge his mind was "crystal clear" ahead of his plea and he confirmed that he is cooperating with federal investigators.
A judge denied DiPascali bail and he was remanded to prison pending sentencing.
"I am standing here to say from the early 1990's I helped Bernard Madoff carry out a fraud that hurt thousands," he told the court, reading a prepared statement.
In a cooperation deal, DiPascali pleaded to 10 counts: conspiracy, securities fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, investment adviser fraud, two counts of falsifying financial records, international money laundering, perjury and federal income tax evasion. The counts carried a maximum penalty of 125 years, the judge said. However, DiPascali's cooperation could lead to a reduced sentence.
Customers have described DiPascali as their main contact with Madoff's firm.
DiPascali, 52, is the second person other than Madoff charged in connection with the $65 billion fraud. Madoff's outside accountant, David Friehling, pleaded not guilty to criminal charges last month.
Madoff, a former Nasdaq chairman, is serving a 150-year prison term for operating the massive Ponzi scheme. Thousands of people lost their life savings, charities were ruined, retirement accounts were blighted and the scam also shook confidence in the U.S. financial system.
Madoff has insisted that he acted alone, and before Tuesday, only one other person -- his accountant, Friehling, -- had been charged during the seven-month investigation. But Madoff's brother and sons, who ran a trading operation under the same roof, large investors and other insiders have come under intense scrutiny, and the FBI has said it expects more arrests before they conclude the probe.
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In court today, DiPascali described the fraud, saying he "represented that trades were taking place when they weren't. Most of time money just went into bank accounts Bernard Madoff controlled." He said at Madoff's direction he "lied under oath" to the Securities and Exchange Commission.He apologized, saying he hopes his cooperation and guilty plea will "bring a small measure of comfort to those I harmed."
"It was all fictitious," he said. "It was wrong, and I knew it was wrong at the time. "
A victim of the Ponzi scheme, Miriam Siegman, 65, asked the court to reject DiPascali's plea deal in favor of a trial by jury. She said she has been left "penniless" by the fraud. She asked the judge to "take the process out from behind closed doors."
Officials will not say which relatives or former co-workers at Madoff Investment Securities will face charges. But investigators have said they expect about a dozen others to be charged as probe moves forward.