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Madoff messenger testifies about cash payments

Bernard Madoff, center, walks out from federal court

Bernard Madoff, center, walks out from federal court after a bail hearing in Manhattan. Five of his former employees are on trial in November 2013 for aiding his fraud which stole billions from investors. Credit: Getty Images, 2009

A former messenger for Bernard Madoff testified Thursday that for years he delivered cash payments of "usually $2,500" every week or two to account supervisor Annette Bongiorno, one of five ex-aides on trial for assisting Madoff's Ponzi scam.

William Nasi, appearing in federal court in Manhattan, said the payments usually came from checks issued by Madoff's cashier to him. He would take them to a bank, cash them and deliver the money to Bongiorno, Madoff's one-time secretary.

"She would just drop it into her purse and say thank you," said Nasi, who also testified Bongiorno was partial to $100 bills, telling him, "Get me Ben Franklins!"

Bongiorno, 65, of Manhasset, is charged with overseeing the production of account statements with made-up securities trades to fool customers into believing Madoff was actually investing their money instead of running a Ponzi scheme.

Prosecutors claim Madoff used the cash, generous pay and other perks to corrupt Bongiorno and her co-defendants -- computer programmers Jerome O'Hara, 50, of Malverne, and George Perez, 47, of East Brunswick, N.J.; account manager Joann Crupi, 52, of Westfield, N.J.; and operations manager Dan Bonventre, 66, of Manhattan.

But defense lawyers contend their clients were fooled by Madoff and never realized they were part of a fraud that would cost investors an estimated $19 billion when it collapsed in 2008. The trial began Oct. 16, and is expected to last as long as five months.

In other testimony Thursday, Madoff's one-time personal secretary Eleanor Squillari described an obscenity-laden conversation in which Madoff told his brother Peter that Bonventre "knew how everything worked" and that Peter should "mind his own business."

On cross-examination, however, Squillari said she had no idea what the conversation was about, and said that despite working in the same suite with Madoff since the early 1990s, she believed he was running a solid business right to the end.

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