NEW YORK — The longtime secretary to the imprisoned Ponzi king Bernard Madoff plans to defend herself from the witness stand at her trial on charges she aided the historic fraud, her lawyer said.
Attorney Roland Riopelle told the judge that Annette Bongiorno expects to testify, though he noted she could change her mind. He notified the judge because Bongiorno’s defense presentation is expected to begin Monday.
It will follow several days of testimony by another defendant, Daniel Bonventre, Madoff’s former director of operations. Bonventre, Bongiorno, and three other former Madoff employees are accused of assisting Madoff in a fraud that cheated thousands of investors out of nearly $20 billion.
The fraud was revealed in 2008 when Madoff ran out of money and confessed he had run a Ponzi scheme for decades.
The defendants say they were all duped by Madoff, just like the regulators and sophisticated investors who said they had no idea he was operating a massive fraud.
In his letter to the judge, Riopelle said he wanted to notify the court and other lawyers that ‘‘Mrs. Bongiorno wishes to exercise her right to testify in her own defense.’’ However, his client ‘‘will reserve the right to change her mind any time before the end of her case, and I intend to call her as the last witness in her case.”
Prosecutors have said that fictitious trades and phantom accounts were created with help from Bongiorno, a supervisor in Madoff’s business.
During his testimony, Bonventre said he was unaware of Madoff’s crimes as they were happening. He said he ran the legitimate side of Madoff’s private investment business.