Madoff's former secretary seeks early release from prison

The longtime secretary of imprisoned financier Bernard Madoff should be released from prison in March because her advanced age entitles her to take advantage of a new prison reform law, her lawyer says.

By March 19, Annette Bongiorno, 70, will have served two-thirds of her six-year prison term and should be released to home confinement by then, according to attorney Roland Riopelle.

He cited the bipartisan First Step Act signed by President Donald Trump last week, saying it permits judges to order some prisoners released to home confinement after serving two-thirds of a sentence.

Bongiorno's advanced age makes her eligible, Riopelle said.

He also noted in his Saturday letter to U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain that the judge had recommended that Bongiorno serve the final year of her sentence in home confinement. Without early release, Bongiorno would not be freed until May 1, 2020.

A spokesman for federal prosecutors in Manhattan declined to comment.

Bongiorno was among five Madoff employees convicted for their roles in a scheme that cost thousands of investors about $20 billion. She was sentenced in December 2014 and reported to prison in February 2015.

The fraud was first exposed in December 2008. Madoff, 80, pleaded guilty within months and was immediately ordered to begin serving his 150-year sentence.

During a six-month trial, Bongiorno maintained she was unaware of history's biggest Ponzi scheme.

At sentencing, Swain called Bongiorno "a pampered, compliant and grossly overcompensated clerical worker who supervised other clerical workers with a ferocious enthusiasm."

The judge largely agreed with Bongiorno's testimony that she merely did as Madoff instructed for 40 years. Swain rejected a request by prosecutors that Bongiorno serve significantly more than 20 years in prison.

In his letter, Riopelle said his client has been a "model prisoner" with no disciplinary violations.

"I am pleased to report that Mrs. Bongiorno is in generally good spirits, although she does find the Holiday Season a bit depressing," the lawyer said.

He said she was in decent health, given her age, though she has aches and pains and pulmonary problems including asthma.

"She remains an 'old fashioned' family oriented person, who would benefit greatly from the release to home confinement that the First Step Act provides, because it would permit her to see more of her extended family more often than she is able to do so now," Riopelle said.