A senior partner at a New York accounting firm pleaded guilty to criminal charges Tuesday in a cooperation deal with the government, saying he unwittingly played a role in financier Bernard Madoff's "horrific and evil Ponzi scheme."
Paul Konigsberg, a 78-year-old accounting firm executive, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and two counts of falsifying books and records in federal court in Manhattan. He also agreed to forfeit $4.4 million in cash and property. Sentencing was set for Sept. 19.
Prosecutors said he was the only person outside the Madoff family to have held an ownership interest in Madoff's private investment business before it was exposed in 2008 as a gigantic decades-old fraud.
'I was not aware of Madoff's horrific and evil Ponzi scheme' - Paul Konigsberg
Madoff, now serving a 150-year prison sentence, admitted in 2009 that claims he managed up to $68 billion for investors were false because he had squandered all but a few hundred million dollars of roughly $20 billion entrusted to him.
Konigsberg told U.S. District Judge Laura Taylor Swain that he sometimes agreed with Madoff's employees to return trading statements prepared for investors to Madoff's firm so that the employees could change information about securities that had been traded. He said he did not know, though, that the trades that were substituted had not occurred.
"I was not aware of Madoff's horrific and evil Ponzi scheme," Konigsberg said.
Konigsberg, of Greenwich, Connecticut, was a senior tax partner at the accounting firm Konigsberg Wolf & Co. when he did work for some of Madoff's most important clients, beginning in at least the early 1990s, Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Schwartz said.
He said that by the time the fraud was discovered, Konigsberg handled more than 300 of Madoff's private securities accounts.