Enrica Cotellessa-Pitz, the former controller at Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC (BMIS) has pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy, falsifying books and records and making false statements to the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Cotellessa-Pitz, 53, pled guilty before U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain on December 19. Cotellessa-Pitz admitted she helped Madoff’s co-conspirators create false and fraudulent documents that were given to the SEC in connection with its audit of BLMIS. Cotellessa-Pitz also admitted to helping create false and fraudulent documents in connection with tax audits of Madoff.
The SEC earlier charged Cotellessa-Pitz, 53, with falsifying books and records in order to hide Madoff’s fraudulent investment advisory operations from regulators.
The SEC alleges that Enrica Cotellessa-Pitz, who worked at Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC (BMIS) for more than 30 years, assisted in falsifying BMIS’s internal accounting records in order to misclassify hundreds of millions of dollars of income purportedly generated by BMIS’s investment advisory operations. Cotellessa-Pitz also falsified financial statements filed with the SEC and other regulators as well as materials that were prepared to deceive SEC staff examiners, federal and state tax auditors, and other external reviewers.
“To keep his massive fraud alive, Madoff had to hide as many facts about his advisory operations as possible,” says George S. Canellos, Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office. “Cotellessa-Pitz along with other senior BMIS personnel played a critical role in this effort by creating false documents to deceive federal and state regulators.”
According to the SEC’s complaint against Cotellessa-Pitz filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, she played a central role in falsifying these records as directed by Madoff and Bonventre. Madoff used the false records to artificially improve the firm’s reported revenue and income as well as to deceive regulators who sought to review the firm’s operations and financial results.
The SEC alleges that Madoff instructed employees to transfer hundreds of millions of dollars from bank accounts holding investor funds to the firm’s operating bank accounts. Madoff’s goal was as simple as it was misleading – to use stolen investor funds to hide the significant losses incurred by BMIS’s market-making and proprietary trading operations. Cotellessa-Pitz joined this effort after she was promoted to controller at the firm in 1998, when Madoff and Bonventre instructed her to falsely account for these transfers of investor funds as adjustments to certain securities positions on BMIS’s stock record.
According to the SEC’s complaint, Cotellessa-Pitz then used these figures to calculate and overstate the trading income purportedly generated by Madoff’s market-making and proprietary trading operations. Cotellessa-Pitz included these bogus figures on BMIS financial statements, which she then filed with the SEC and other regulators. Cotellessa-Pitz and other BMIS personnel then falsified documents provided to regulators to obscure the firm’s advisory operations and the transfer of investor funds to the operating bank accounts.
Cotellessa-Pitz worked for Madoff from 1978 through December 11, 2008. She started with the firm while she was a college student and became controller in 1998. Beginning in the late 1990s, until the firm collapsed in 2008.
She faces up to 50 years in prison.
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