Govt: 5 ex-workers of Ponzi king aided Madoff's 'elaborate fiction,' defense openings next

Opening statements by defense lawyers are slated to begin in the New York fraud trial of five former employees of imprisoned financier Bernard Madoff.

Thursday's defense openings come a day after a prosecutor portrayed the ex-employees as greedy, lying thieves who assisted Madoff in history's biggest Ponzi scheme.

Defense lawyers are expected to strike back, saying their clients were duped by Madoff like everyone else. The 75-year-old Madoff is serving a 150-year prison sentence after admitting five years ago that he cheated thousands of investors out of nearly $20 billion.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Schwartz said Madoff could not have carried out the fraud without help. The trial of Madoff's longtime secretary, his director of operations, an account manager and two computer programmers is expected to last five months.