NEW YORK - US prosecutors may still be building a case against imprisoned swindler Bernard Madoff's only surviving son, who according to sources was one of the "co-conspirators" mentioned in a plea deal by a Madoff associate last month.
Two sources familiar with the Madoff case confirmed to Reuters that people identified only as "co-conspirators" in statements and court documents at accountant Paul Konigsberg's June 24 plea hearing are Madoff's sons, Mark and Andrew, who were employees of the Madoff investment firm.
Mark Madoff committed suicide in December 2010 at the age of 46 on the second anniversary of Bernard Madoff's arrest. Andrew Madoff, 48, spoke publicly last year about his battle with stage-four blood cancer, though his current health is unclear.
Andrew Ehrlich, a lawyer for Andrew Madoff and Mark Madoff's estate, declined to comment on the case.
Speculation about whether the sons knew of their father's decades-long, worldwide fraud has persisted since its collapse. They have denied any involvement in the scheme, which is estimated to have cost investors $17 billion in principal.
A spokesman for Manhattan US Attorney Preet Bharara said only that the Madoff investigation continues, including efforts to recover assets for victims of the Ponzi scheme, in which the money of new investors was used to pay returns to earlier clients.
Last September, The New York Times reported that prosecutors had examined Andrew Madoff's conduct. But the Konigsberg case is the first signal in months that the government may still be contemplating charges.
Konigsberg signed a deal to cooperate with prosecutors as part of his plea. With no charges pending against anyone else, the deal, coupled with the references to the Madoff sons as co-conspirators, suggests prosecutors hope Konigsberg may be able to provide evidence against Andrew Madoff, a legal expert said.
"It certainly does indicate that the government thinks they committed crimes," said Robert Anello, a white-collar defence lawyer not involved in the case. "If they haven't already been charged, it would certainly make you sit up and take notice if you're their lawyers."
That said, prosecutors sometimes refer to co-conspirators in court filings, but may not end up charging them if they do not have enough evidence, Anello added.
Bernard Madoff, 76, is serving a 150-year prison sentence after pleading guilty in March 2009. Konigsberg, who provided accounting services for some of Madoff's biggest clients, was the 15th person to be convicted in connection with the fraud.