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Bernie Madoff's coders jailed for role in $65bn ponzi scheme fiasco

Two blokes to be thrown in cooler as prosecutors attack short sentences

Two software developers who helped notorious crook Bernie Madoff pull off an $18bn fraud will each spend up to the next two and a half years behind bars.

At a hearing in New York on Wednesday, US District Judge Laura Taylor Swain sentenced George Perez, 48, for his role in Madoff's infamous ponzi scheme – arguably the largest financial scam in US history.

The day before, fellow programmer Jerome O'Hara, 51, was also sent down for 30 months, along with Madoff's manager Annette Bongiorno, 66, who was sentenced to six years in the cooler. Madoff, meanwhile, is only just beginning his 150-year prison stretch.

Investors in the ponzi scheme say they lost $18bn when the operation collapsed in 2008, although if you include all the fabricated gains, the amount missing is as high as $65bn.

Perez and his colleague O'Hara – a father of three of Malverne, NY – were both employed by Madoff, and developed software that recorded fake transactions and falsified financial records to hoodwink regulators sniffing around Madoff's operations.

Judge Taylor Swain said Perez should have raised the alarm after becoming uncomfortable knowing what his programs were being used for. She added: "He must be punished in a way that's severe and commensurate with his crimes."

Perez, of East Brunswick, NJ, had worked for Madoff for 17 years, from 1991 until Madoff's arrest in 2008. He told the court: "I'm terribly sorry for the role my work played."

As for O'Hara, the court heard he had joined the operation late on, but should have also questioned the use of programs to falsify records. "He is not a morally bankrupt conniver who set out to bankrupt anyone," said Judge Taylor Swain.

The relatively short prison terms left a bad taste in the mouths of prosecutors, who had pushed for longer sentences.

"Judges will have to explain how small-time crooks in front of them were worse than the defendants in this case," attorney Matthew Schwartz said, according to Reuters.

Earlier this year, Perez and O'Hara were found guilty of fraud and conspiracy charges by a Manhattan jury, and must surrender on February 23. This week Perez became the fifth Madoff staffer to be sentenced for aiding the scam lord. ®

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