A convicted accomplice to Bernard Madoff's $65 billion dollar fraud has been freed on bail in exchange for his continued cooperation with the FBI and prosecutors who are trying to track missing investor funds.
Frank DiPascali, 53, walked out of federal court surrounded by FBI agents and US marshals after being granted $10 million bail in February. A waiting Chevy Impala then drove the convicted swindler off - presumably to be re-united with his family.
Looking weary, DiPascali was wearing jeans, a grey t-shirt and his hair was long and curly. He did not answer NBC New York reporter Jonathan Dienst's questions about what happened to the billions he helped steal or whether he thought he deserved to be sent home in exchange for his cooperation in the Madoff investigation.
DiPascali must meet a series of bail conditions, including living under 24-hour-a-day house arrest and wearing an electronic monitor, as he awaits sentencing for his role in the massive fraud.
DiPascali's attorneys offered a "no comment" when they left the court and were asked about their notorious convicted client being let out of prison.
Ilene Kent, who lost money to Madoff, said she was surprised that DiPascali was released.
"The fact that he's out of jail, able to go home to his family, kind of sticks in the craw of so many of our members," said Kent, who runs the Network for Investor Action and Protection.
It was last August that DiPascali, Madoff's finance chief, pleaded guilty to helping cheat investors for more than 20 years. He faces up to 125 years in prison when he is sentenced on 10 criminal charges. He was Madoff's right hand man, working for the Ponzi schemer for 33 years. He started there at age 18 in 1975, advancing through the years to become the firm's chief financial officer.
Last year, Judge Richard Sullivan had rejected a first request for bail, but in February he reversed course after prosecutors said DiPascali had provided invaluable assistance in detailing Madoff’s fraud, one of the biggest in history.
Investigators have said DiPascali was instrumental in helping them bring charges last year against two former computer programmers.
"You have to give a little to get a little," said white collar crime expert Robert Ray, an attorney with Pryor Cashman LLP-. "And the little that they are hoping to get is the ability to locate assets and prosecute other people."
Family and friends helped DiPascali raise the bail money and non-relatives agreed to risk $1 million in retirement savings to help the man already convicted of lying to investors.
DiPascali had said that before the Ponzi scheme unraveled he had always hoped Madoff would find a way to make enough money to repay investors.
"I knew it was criminal and I did it anyway," DiPascali told Judge Sullivan.
Sullivan originally ordered DiPascali to jail immediately and said he would consider reducing his sentence if he cooperated with the FBI.
DiPascali and his wife, who have four children, also must forfeit all but $300,000 of their assets. U.S. Marshals today gave the public a preview of his antique furniture, rugs and arcade games -- all slated for auction later this week.
There was no comment from U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara about DiPascali's release.