Madoff’s waterfront Florida home, three boats seized

April 3rd, 2009 - 11:39 am ICT by IANS  

Washington, April 3 (DPA) Prosecutors have started seizing the property of the fraudster-financier Bernard Madoff, taking possession of his multimillion-dollar waterfront home in upscale Palm Beach, Florida, and three boats, the US Attorney’s Office has said.
Madoff, 70, faces 150 years in prison for the largest Wall Street swindles ever, and now faces loss of his personal property to pay back angry clients. The Florida property alone was reportedly valued at $14 million.

The US Attorney’s Office said Thursday it wanted the assets “to maximize recovery for victims” as part of the forfeiture ordered by the New York federal judge, who accepted his guilty plea last month.

Over more than a decade, Madoff tricked clients out of $50 billion by paying some of them off with money from new clients rather than investing the funds in securities as he had promised.

His office produced fake investment statements for clients, and his accountant, David Friehling, 49, has been charged with securities fraud.

In a statement, Lev Dassin, the acting US attorney for the southern district of New York, said his office would ask that the property being seized be sold and used to compensate victims.

The boats included the 18-metre luxury yacht “Bull”, parked in Florida, the 13-metre boat “Sitting Bull” in New York and an 8-metre motorboat and trailer, Dassin said.

The boats and home belong to Madoff and his wife, Ruth. US marshals carried out the seizures.

Madoff, currently in jail, faces sentencing June 16.

According to a US court filing last month, prosecutors also intend to go after three other homes owned by the Madoffs, including the property and contents of a $7-million Manhattan luxury apartment, a $3.4-million beachside home on Long Island and a home in the south of France.

Other assets subject to seizure include a fourth boat, four cars, a $39,000 Steinway piano and $65,000 worth of silverware.

Ruth Madoff has argued that cash and other items in her name could not be seized to pay the victims of the scandal and were not the result of the fraud. But prosecutors said they intend to seize $17 million in cash and $45 million in bonds held in her name.

Madoff’s net worth is estimated at $823 to $826 million.

Madoff bilked thousands of investors around the world, including individuals and charity groups, of their money - many of their entire life savings. At least one investor and an investment manager have committed suicide since December over the revelations.

The scandal has been a major embarrassment for government regulators. An independent fraud investigator, Harry Markopolos, testified before Congress last month that he had warned the SEC of Madoff’s shady operations some nine years ago.

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