Ex-Madoff controller avoids prison time after cooperating

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NEW YORK (AP) — Imprisoned Wall Street swindler Bernard Madoff's former controller won't have to go to prison after a prosecutor praised her Tuesday for helping them successfully convict others in his multibillion-dollar fraud.

Enrica Cotellessa-Pitz, 56, was sentenced to time served by U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain, who said her detailed and consistent testimony over five days contributed significantly to the conviction of five former Madoff employees last year. Swain also ordered her to serve 250 hours of community service.

The judge said she believed Cotellessa-Pitz was genuinely remorseful for knowingly falsifying records that were presented to the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Internal Revenue Service between 1998 and 2008.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Randall Jackson said Cotellessa engaged in "extraordinarily bad conduct" but earned leniency as a model witness who "helped us understand exactly what was happening" at Madoff's firm.

Swain said Cotellessa-Pitz's crimes involved paperwork "and were nonviolent, but they shattered dreams nonetheless."

Before the sentence was announced, Cotellessa-Pitz told the judge she was "truly sorry" and "completely ashamed."

She said a disciplined upbringing that taught her to respect elders preceded her "huge mistake."

With Madoff, she said: "There was only one way to do things — his way."

She said loyalty and trust clouded her mind and she never imagined that her good fortune was coming at the expense of others.

"Now I am sickened that I played a role in that crime," she said. "This shame will stay with me the rest of my life."

Cotellessa-Pitz said she had no idea investments weren't being made for thousands of investors, and she insisted she knew nothing about the Ponzi scheme.

She said she felt so badly about her role that she contributed the $50,000 she earned for selling photographs she had taken at Madoff's firm over the years to a fund to compensate victims even though her lawyers told her she might be entitled to keep the income.

Although she has lost all her assets, including her retirement fund, Cotellessa-Pitz was still ordered by Swain to forfeit $97.3 billion, a symbolic order that results from the amount of money that moved back and forth through the firm's accounts during the decade when she was controller.

Cotellessa-Pitz joined Madoff's firm in 1978 while in college. She worked there until a few months after his fraud was revealed in December 2008. Her lawyer said she is now modestly paid by two victims of Madoff's scheme to handle paperwork and claims at a Queens dentist office.

Madoff, 77, pleaded guilty to fraud charges and is serving a 150-year prison sentence.

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