Bernard Madoff “seemed to have the respect of everyone in the world,” which made it easy to believe lies the con man told to hide his $17 billion Ponzi scheme, said Daniel Bonventre, the first defendant to testify among five former employees on trial for aiding the scheme.
Bonventre, the former operations chief of Madoff’s broker-dealer unit, told jurors Tuesday in Manhattan federal court that he worked 18 hours a day with Madoff before computerization, when more manual work was required to keep up with the demand on Wall Street.
Madoff “was generous, kind, considerate,” Bonventre testified. “I give him credit for teaching me how to listen.”
“Now, I think he was a terribly ill man,” Bonventre said. “It’s difficult to reconcile everything I knew about him for 40 years and everything I know now.”
The trial of Bonventre and four of his former colleagues is the first stemming from the swindle, which collapsed after Madoff’s arrest in December 2008. Madoff, 75, is serving a 150-year sentence in a federal prison in North Carolina after pleading guilty in 2009 to the unprecedented fraud.
Prosecutors began presenting testimony by industry experts, Madoff’s accomplices and his former clerical staff in October.
Bonventre testified that he didn’t know about the fraud because Madoff lied to him nearly every day. He said he questioned Madoff about the operations of the investment advisory business on a few occasions and Madoff gave explanations that he now realizes were lies.
The case is U.S. v. O’Hara, 10-cr-00228, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York.