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Secretary: Madoff Liked Massage Parlors

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 The Associated Press 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 said that if she had a chance to speak to Madoff, she would ask him "to do the right thing and to let us know this happened."

"I just can't imagine why he's not cooperating, why he's saying he did it himself," she said. "It's not humanly possible, in my opinion."

Squillari spoke with the AP after she appeared on NBC's "Today" show and 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."

She wrote that Madoff said he always had his wife, Ruth, watch the books and that "nothing gets by Ruth."

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."

(AP Photo/Stephen Wilkes)
This photo supplied by Vanity Fair shows Eleanor Squillari, Bernard Madoff's personal secretary of 20 years, on the Staten Island ferry in New York, Tuesday, March 31, 2009. Squillari says Madoff is not cooperating with authorities in order to protect others, and that he was a flirtatious boss who frequented massage parlors. (AP Photo/Stephen Wilkes, courtesy of Vanity Fair)

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 has 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 so incredibly angry, and the only way I could work through it was to try to help," she told the AP. "And even though I didn't think I had much to contribute, I felt that whatever I could do might be helpful, and I just kept researching through all of my files and my calendars going back and I started to realize that I was feeling better."

Squillari said Madoff was preoccupied in the weeks before his arrest, and his health deteriorated.

"Bernie was developing high blood pressure," she said. "He was taking medication. He was having a lot of back pain. ... He would have to lie on the floor to give himself relief."

When the arrest became public, Squillari and a co-worker took turns fielding calls from distraught investors.

"You couldn't do it for more than 15, 20 minutes at a stretch," she said. "The people were so devastated, they were so scared, they were crying. ... You didn't know what to tell them. There was no information to give. It was very frustrating, and it made you feel sick."

Squillari 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.