* DiPascali has cooperated with prosecutors
* Could face up to 125 years prison
* Little or no prison possible, legal expert says
(Adds comment, details, other defendants, byline)
By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK, Feb 19 Bernard Madoff's top
lieutenant may get "extraordinary" leniency from prosecutors
for his help in unraveling the largest Ponzi scheme on record.
In a letter released on Friday, federal prosecutors in New
York praised the efforts of Madoff associate Frank DiPascali in
providing "substantial assistance to the government in its
investigation and prosecution of others."
DiPascali faces up to 125 years in prison, but "it is
likely his cooperation will result in an extraordinary letter"
justifying a lower sentence, according to the 10-page letter to
U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan, dated Dec. 14, 2009.
"The word 'extraordinary' is extraordinary," said James
Cohen, a professor at Fordham University School of Law and
specialist in criminal proceedings.
"It's extremely uncommon for the government to use that
term. It says to me the government is asking for no jail at
Most of the letter was blacked out, although at least some
of the redacted text appeared to describe DiPascali's
"historical and prospective cooperation" with the government.
Prosecutors said release of that information could result
in "significant harm" to their criminal investigation.
DiPascali had worked for Madoff's firm since 1975, and
eventually rose to become its chief financial officer. He
pleaded guilty last August to 10 charges including securities
fraud, money laundering, conspiracy and perjury.
Sullivan at the time denied bail, over the objections of
DiPascali's lawyers and prosecutors who thought this could make
it harder for the defendant to cooperate.
Last week, Sullivan ordered the defendant's release on $10
million bond, secured by assets of family members and friends,
saying it was sufficient to ensure DiPascali would not flee.
He nonetheless subjected the defendant to home confinement
with electronic monitoring, and tight oversight by federal
Madoff's former accountant, David Friehling, has also
pleaded guilty in the case, while computer programmers Jerome
O'Hara and George Perez were criminally charged in November.
Others are also being investigated, including Madoff's
Cohen said prosecutors' call for leniency "puts
extraordinary pressure" on Sullivan to hand down a low
sentence, though he expects some prison time to be involved.
"A low sentence would send a message that even someone who
plays a major role in one of most the significant frauds in
history can expect no serious jail time in exchange for
cooperation," he said.
Madoff is serving a 150-year sentence in a North Carolina
The case is U.S. v DiPascali, U.S. District Court, Southern
District of New York, No. 09-00764.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel, editing by Leslie Gevirtz and