Florida investor and philanthropist Jeffry Picower, a Bernard Madoff associate accused of making billions from Madoff's fraud scheme, was pronounced dead on Sunday after he was found at the bottom of his swimming pool.
AFP - Florida investor and philanthropist Jeffry Picower, accused of making billions of dollars in his friend Bernard Madoff's fraud scheme, died Sunday after he was found at the bottom of his swimming pool, police said.
Picower's wife discovered her husband at the bottom of the pool in their Palm Beach mansion and called police. Picower, 67, was rushed to hospital where he was pronounced dead.
"As standard operating procedure in any drowning, the Palm Beach Police Department is conducting an investigation into Mr. Picower's death," police said in a statement.
Detectives remained on the scene hours after the death, they added.
The court-appointed trustee tracking down Madoff's missing billions has sued Picower to recoup part of the 6.7 billion dollars he and his associates were said to have withdrawn from the scheme orchestrated by Madoff, whom court papers said was a friend and associate of Picower for more than 20 years.
"The trustee's investigation to date has revealed that at least five billion dollars of this amount was fictitious profit from the Ponzi scheme," according to the documents filed in May to the US bankruptcy court in Manhattan.
Picower, a former lawyer and accountant who reportedly once came under scrutiny by the Internal Revenue Service for his work with suspicious tax shelters, was accused of knowingly profiting from the Madoff fraud which brought "implausibly high rates of return," according to the filings.
Picower's annual return rates often topped 100 percent, with one account in 1999 yielding a return of 950 percent, the documents said.
In the filings, trustee Irving Picard said Picower enjoyed "an unusually close relationship with Madoff" and was given special access to information and dealings of Madoff's investment company.
Former Nasdaq chairman Madoff, 71, is serving a 150-year sentence for a fraud estimated at 64.8 billion dollars that cheated thousands of people and institutions, including celebrities, charities and leading banks, over several decades.
Picower and his wife were founders and directors of the Picower Foundation, which gave millions of dollars to several causes over two decades, including the New York Public Library.
It donated 50 million dollars to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2002, with the funds earmarked for brain and cognitive research. The gift led to the establishment of the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT.
The foundation was forced to close its doors earlier this year following severe losses related to the Madoff scheme.
Date created : 2009-10-26