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(photo credit: AP)
Bernard Madoff's longtime secretary said Wednesday that she believes the disgraced financier is not cooperating with authorities in order to protect others, and that he was a flirtatious boss who frequented massage parlors.
Eleanor Squillari, Madoff's secretary of more than 20 years, told NBC's Today that she thinks her former boss carefully orchestrated his arrest and that he's protecting others who might have been involved in his multibillion-dollar scheme by not cooperating with investigators. She declined to speculate as to whom he might be protecting.
Squillari was asked what she would say to Madoff.
"After I stop crying? I would really want to know why he is not cooperating," she said.
Squillari appeared on Today and on ABC's Good Morning America to promote an account of her time working for Madoff that she co-wrote for Vanity Fair. The 59-year-old Squillari spent two months helping the FBI gather evidence against the former money manager.
In the article, Squillari said her married former boss was flirtatious and made sexually suggestive remarks. She said she once saw him perusing the escort ads in the back of a magazine and said he frequented massage parlors.
"Once, I looked in his address book and found, under M, about a dozen phone numbers for his masseuses," she wrote. "'If you ever lose your address book and somebody finds it, they're going to think you're a pervert,' I said."
Squillari said Madoff often made sexually suggestive remarks.
"'Oh, you know you're crazy about me,' he would say to me. Sometimes when he came out of his bathroom, which was diagonal to my desk, he would still be zipping up his pants. If he saw me shaking my head disapprovingly, he would say 'Oh, you know it excites you,'" she wrote.
But Squillari told ABC she had a nice relationship with Madoff, despite his ways toward women.
"So, what one person might perceive as inappropriate, I didn't," Squillari said. "So, if he made suggestive remarks, I knew it was only meant to be funny."
Squillari wrote about a conversation she had with Madoff years ago, after a client's secretary had been arrested for embezzlement.
"You know, [he] has to take some responsibility for this," Madoff said, according to Squillari. "He should have been keeping an eye on his personal finances. That's why I've always had Ruth watching the books. Nothing gets by Ruth," she wrote.
Squillari said she was surprised when he added: "Well, you know what happens is, it starts out with you taking a little bit, maybe a few hundred, a few thousand. You get comfortable with that, and before you know it, it snowballs into something big."
Madoff, 70, pleaded guilty in March to charges that his secretive investment advisory operation was a multibillion-dollar fraud. The former Nasdaq chairman faces up to 150 years in prison.
Madoff's attorney, Ira Sorkin, said Wednesday he had no comment on any of the secretary's allegations.
Squillari said the Madoff who was arrested was not the same man she knew. She said she was shocked and then angry after his arrest.
"I'm having a hard time getting past the person that I did know, who was so kind and generous, and I admired him," she told NBC. "I can't seem to get it in my head that he did this. It's like it's somebody else."
And she decided to help the FBI.
"I was very obsessed with going through my stuff and trying to help them find out so I could understand what had happened because I just couldn't wrap my head around it," she told ABC.
"I felt if that was making me feel better, maybe this information would help the investors understand," she said.
Squillari also told ABC that said she invested years ago but pulled her money out in the 1990s because as a single mother with two children and a "very limited income," she needed to supplement her earnings.