Two top aides charged with helping Bernie Madoff pull off his Ponzi scheme were allowed to use corporate expense accounts to spend freely on Caribbean vacations, clothes, and thousands of dollars in wine, according to federal court testimony Monday.
Former Madoff data entry worker Charlane White testified that one aide -- account manager Joann "Jody" Crupi -- used her corporate credit card to spend nearly $10,000 in 32 months at a store called the Wine Library, near her New Jersey home.
The charges included four separate Wine Library purchases on Nov. 14, 2005, for $305, $385, $508 and $483. Prosecutors say the personal spending was a payoff for aiding the fraud, and prosecutor John Zach sarcastically asked White whether the wine binge had a business purpose.
"While you were going between the 17th and 18th floor at Madoff's offices, were you aware of Ms. Crupi putting out almost $2,000 worth of wine for a Thanksgiving celebration?" Zach asked. "No," White told the jury at federal court in Manhattan.
Crupi, 52, of Westfield, N.J., is charged with securities fraud and conspiracy along with ex-secretary Annette Bongiorno, 65, of Manhasset, operations manager Daniel Bonventre, 66, of Manhattan, and computer programmers Jerome O'Hara, 50, of Malverne and George Perez, 46, of East Brunswick, N.J.
Prosecutors allege the five helped Madoff cut corners, lie to investors and trick regulators in return for rich compensation packages and perks funded by money stolen from investors.
White testified that Bonventre, who wrote firm checks to himself to cover his expenses, paid for two family trips to St. Barthelme in the Caribbean, an $8,200 and a $10,471 hotel bill, a $3,224 bill from Barneys, and country club dues from firm accounts. In addition to the wine, she testified, Crupi was permitted to charge nine trips to Miami, Orlando and Las Vegas -- four of them including three family members -- to her card, along with a $5,400 hotel bill on one trip, and a $2,000 shopping trip at Costco.
A 2010 SEC suit filed in 2010 said that altogether, Crupi billed $270,000 to her corporate credit card from 2004 to 2008, and said Madoff's company also bought a $2.5 million beach house for her.
When the scheme collapsed in 2008, leaving investors with $19 billion in losses, she was making a $350,000 salary. Defense lawyers say none of their clients knew Madoff was a crook.