NEW YORK (AP) — A prosecutor lashed out Wednesday at a judge sentencing former employees of imprisoned financial swindler Bernard Madoff this week, saying her leniency would be cited by defendants in future cases as good reason to limit their own exposure to prison.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Schwartz commented just before U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain in Manhattan announced a 2½-year prison sentence for George Perez, one of Madoff's computer programmers. He was the fourth of five defendants to be sentenced through Monday. Despite federal sentencing guidelines calling for life in prison, no defendant has gotten more than 10 years in prison.
"In the government's view, a sentence of two or three years would not be reasonable, and would not be just," Schwartz said. "The next fraud defendants, the next Ponzi scheme defendants, they're going to point to the sentences in this case."
Saying Swain had "shown extraordinary mercy here," the prosecutor urged longer prison terms. "We ask for justice."
He said future defendants will cite the 10 years given Monday to ex-Madoff director of operations Daniel Bonventre, 67, the 6 years given Tuesday to his longtime secretary, Annette Bongiorno, 66, and the 2 ½ years given to computer programmer Jerome O'Hara, 51.
"My crime didn't last years. My crime didn't have thousands of victims," he predicted they'll tell their sentencing judges.
"Judges will have to explain how the small time crooks in front of them were somehow worse than the defendants in this case," Schwartz added.
The judge responded that she recognized her sentences will be scrutinized and said it was one reason she had been careful to describe her findings of law regarding the sentencing of each defendant. Each sentencing has lasted at least two hours.
Larry Krantz, a lawyer for Perez, called the government's argument inappropriate, saying how future defendants would use the Madoff case was not relevant.
"I object to the government bringing that up," he said.
Before he was sentenced, Perez said he was sorry "for all those who lost their investments in Madoff securities."
"Being associated with Madoff securities is a source of great shame for me," he said. "It is something I will have to live with my entire life."
Madoff is serving a 150-year prison term after the fraud cost investors nearly $20 billion over four decades.