The operations chief for Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities and his personal assistant are petitioning a New York court to be released from jail.

Former operations head Daniel Bonventre is asking for criminal charges to be dismissed against him, after prosecutors threatened to seize assets of his, including those he would use to pay for his defense.

Bongiorno’s lawyer is also calling for her release, after prosecutors seized her accounts, a United Kingdom news service reported.

Bonventre is accused of conspiracy, securities fraud and tax charges. Both Bonventre and Bongiorno maintain their innocence.

Madoff is now serving a 150-year sentence and is not believed to be cooperating with authorities who argue that he was aided in his scheme by many of his former staff. Madoff has said he acted alone.

His son, Mark, committed suicide on the second anniversary of Madoff’s arrest, December 10, 2010. The son faced continued speculation that he was in some fashion culpable or at least knowledgeable of the fraud, that took in more than $20 billion, by federal estimate.

In court papers Andrew Frisch, Bonventre's lawyer, accused prosecutors of trying to pressure the defendants to cooperate in their Madoff investigation. Bonventre was arrested in February last year but Frisch said that it was not until December that prosecutors informed him they were seizing Bonventre's funds, the Guardian reported.

"Nothing else reasonably explains why the government has waited until now to frustrate Mr. Bonventre's ability to defend himself," Frisch wrote, in the Guardian’s account. "Instead, the government sent the letters just six days after counsel complained that he intended to challenge the recent superseding indictment."

Bongiorno was jailed after she said she could not meet $5 million in bail. She began working for Madoff in 1968 and oversaw 200 of his firm's accounts. Prosecutors have accused her of making $14 million from the fraud.

Her lawyers say she should be released from jail, now that her assets are being seized, and bail should be dropped to $2.5m, which she could meet.

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