FACTBOX: U.S. says auditor "sold his license" to Madoff

Wed Mar 18, 2009 12:58pm EDT

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(Reuters) - Bernard Madoff's outside accountant was charged with fraud on Wednesday, accused of falsely certifying his audits of the confessed swindler's books and withdrawing millions from a personal Madoff account he held in violation of accounting rules.

Auditor David Friehling, 49, faces criminal charges and a civil lawsuit brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Here are details of the government's accusations in court papers filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan:

* Friehling, sole practitioner at Friehling & Horowitz accounting firm in New City, New York, was charged with criminal securities fraud, aiding and abetting investment adviser fraud and filing false audit reports with the SEC. He faces as much as 105 years in prison if convicted.

* SEC files civil fraud charges against Friehling, saying he "essentially sold his license to Madoff for more than 17 years while Madoff's Ponzi scheme went undetected."

* U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan says Friehling "not charged with knowledge of the Madoff Ponzi scheme" but is accused of deceiving investors by falsely certifying he audited Madoff financial documents and helping "foster the illusion" Madoff was a legitimate investor.

* SEC says Friehling and his firm "did not perform anything remotely resembling an audit" or try to confirm that stocks Madoff purportedly bought for customers even existed.

* Authorities say Friehling failed to conduct independent verification of Madoff operation's assets, review sources of its revenue including commissions or examine a bank account through which billions of dollars of client funds flowed.

* Friehling's and his family's personal accounts at Madoff firm had an accumulated balance on November 30, 2008 of more than $14 million, and withdrawals from the largest of these accounts totaled over $5.5 million since 2000, the SEC said.

* SEC says Friehling took steps to hide his investments with Madoff, replacing his own name on his account with his wife's name and later renaming it the "Friehling Investment Fund" to try to conceal his conflict of interest.

* Friehling and his firm received $186,000 a year in fees for providing the purported auditing work to Madoff firm along with bookkeeping and tax services for the confessed swindler and various Madoff family members, SEC says.

(Reporting by Martha Graybow)

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