NEW YORK (AP) — The trustee recovering money for Bernard Madoff's burned investors has reached a $7.2 billion settlement with the estate of a Florida philanthropist and businessman who had been the single-largest beneficiary of the fraud.
The settlement with the estate of Jeffry Picower was detailed Friday in Manhattan court papers.
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara called it "a truly historic settlement" and a "game changer for Madoff's victims."
Barbara Picower, representing her late husband's estate, entered into the agreement with the U.S. attorney's office.
She said in a statement that her husband was "in no way complicit" with Madoff's fraud. She said the estate would "return every penny received" through Madoff investments.
Picower drowned after suffering a heart attack in the swimming pool of his Palm Beach, Fla., mansion on Oct. 25, 2009.
A recovery of that size would mean that a sizeable number of Madoff's victims could get at least half of their money back — a remarkable turnaround for people and institutions that thought two years ago that they had lost everything.
Picower, who was 67 when he died, invested many years ago with Madoff. Court-appointed trustee Irving
Picard's investigators said that, over time, he withdrew about $7 billion in bogus profits from his accounts. That amounts to more than a third of the dollars that disappeared in the scandal.
That money was supposedly made on stock trades, but authorities said that in reality it was simply stolen from other investors.
Picower's lawyers claimed he knew nothing about the scheme, but the trustee argued in court papers that he must have known that his returns were "implausibly high" and based on fraud.
I must say, it's about time that the victims of this monstrous crime received some just compensation. The sheer amount of unadulterated greed that went into this is staggering and makes me physically ill. I harbor no ill will toward Mr. Madoff and I will pray for his coversion and repentance, but I thoroughly condemn the enormous fraud he perpetuated on innocent people. Life savings were wiped out in his scheme, and I welcome this effort to try to make things right.
Let us continue to pray for these poor souls. With God, all things are possible.