Monday, December 20, 2010

Annette Miller Argese Bongiorno

Bernard Madoff's unassuming assistant allegedly pocketed $14 million, and tomorrow must show where her loot is hidden—or face jail. Almost as soon as Bernie Madoff's massive fraud was revealed two years ago, authorities moved to gain the cooperation of someone they felt was a linchpin in the operation: Annette Miller Argese Bongiorno. Bongiorno has remained steadfastly defiant and resistant to offers from the prosecutors, even as other Madoff lieutenants have cut deals with the government. Tomorrow, her defiance may send her straight to jail. Facing 75 years, an air of unreality surrounds Bongiorno's antagonistic behavior. For most of the past two years, she rejected entreaties from prosecutors because she apparently did not understand—as her former Queens neighbor, Madoff operations chief Frank DiPascali did— that no one close to Bernie would ever get better than a reduced prison term. Instead, until the government succeeded in getting a partial forfeiture order last summer, Bongiorno and her husband swanned around South Florida in her Bentley or the couple's his-and-hers Mercedes Benz sedans, angering authorities. And, at least until last week, Bongiorno may have thought that somehow she was going be able to keep some of the $14 million she collected while employed on the dark side of Bernie's operation. That fantasy was shattered when prosecutors demanded her immediate imprisonment because she remains more than $2 million short of posting a $5 million bail. - Allan Dodds Frank

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