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Fraud trial of ex-Madoff employees slowly lifting off

If you thought you had heard the end of the Bernard Madoff case, think again. Five former underlings of the now-convicted operator of one of history's biggest securities fraud schemes are before the federal court bench in New York in the early stages of a trial that is expected to last about five months.

The five individuals are Madoff's former secretary, a former director of operations, two computer programmers and two portfolio managers. They are charged with, among other things, securities fraud and conspiracy to defraud clients in connection with the Ponzi scheme that stripped investors of more than $17 billion over the course of several decades. 

Madoff pleaded guilty to charges in 2009 and is serving a 150-year prison term. They five on trial in this case have all pleaded not guilty.

Jury selection in the trial began this week and is slated to continue next week. The goal is to seat 12 jurors and six alternates. An unusually well-stocked pool of about 400 people has been assembled.

Some legal experts quoted in a Reuters story say that despite the size of the pool, it may not be easy and the results may not be ideal for either side. The anticipated length of the trial will likely lead to a significant number of possible jurors seeking excuse for reasons of hardship. They say the pool that will be left could result in a jury that is heavily weighted with retirees, unemployed people and those who work for employers that pay for jury duty service.

As for the trial itself, court watchers say to look for possible testimony from Madoff's former finance chief, Frank DiPascali. He's one of six former Madoff employees who have pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the case. Though the defendants have claimed they were in the dark about Madoff's activities, DiPascali is expected to detail what role each of the five played in the alleged fraud.

Source: UTSanDiego.com, "NYC fraud trial to begin for 5 ex-Madoff employees," Larry Neumeister and Tom Hays, AP, Oct. 6, 2013

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