FBI seizes Madoff's luxury property in Florida

The FBI has seized a multi-million dollar Palm Beach house and luxury goods belonging to disgraced US financier Bernard Madoff. Madoff, 70, is in a New York jail awaiting sentencing for running a multi-billion-dollar Ponzi scheme.


AFP - Federal prosecutors vowed Thursday that yachts and luxury property seized in Florida and New York from jailed fraudster Bernard Madoff will be sold in aid of his victims.

US marshals on Wednesday dismantled the trappings of Madoff's former luxury life with raids in Florida and exclusive Long Island outside New York.

Prosecutors in New York said the intention was to "secure, maintain, and ultimately sell these Madoff assets to maximize recovery for victims in connection to criminal forfeiture proceedings against Madoff."

Madoff, 70, is in a New York jail awaiting sentencing for running a multi-billion-dollar Ponzi scheme, the biggest such fraud in Wall Street history. He faces a sentence of up to 150 years in prison.

Prosecutors also say they are seeking as much as 177 billion dollars in restitution.

A lawyer for the government-appointed trustee tracking down Madoff's assets said last month that just over one billion dollars have been located worldwide.

That means that while Wednesday's property seizures were spectacular, they left the authorities a long way from their astronomical target.

In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, marshals seized two Madoff yachts: the 55-foot (16.8-meter) "Bull," valued at 2.2 million dollars, and the smaller "Little Bull."

A third vessel, the 38-foot (11.5-meter) "Sitting Bull," was seized in Montauk, New York.

Agents also seized a five-bedroom mansion in an upscale neighborhood of Palm Beach, Florida.

"We got three big items," Barry Golden, the Miami-based spokesman for the US Marshals Service, told AFP on Thursday.

Golden said that agents also seized a Mercedes Benz vehicle at the Palm Beach home.

"Other items seized are just normal stuff from the house, not to be mentioned to the public," Golden said.

Court documents filed in March showed Madoff and his wife Ruth lived a life of high luxury on his ill-gotten gains.

They owned 22 million dollars worth of real estate at the end of 2008, including the seven million dollar Manhattan apartment where Ruth Madoff still lives.

They owned a one million dollar house in exclusive Cap d'Antibe in the south of France and another in New York state -- properties stuffed with millions of dollars worth of furniture and art.

Long known for lavish tastes, the Madoffs were also revealed to have owned 2.6 million dollars in jewelry, a 39,000 dollar Steinway piano and 65,000 dollars worth of silverware in their New York apartment alone.

Madoff ran a pyramid scheme that collapsed when his clients asked to withdraw their capital in late 2008. He was arrested December 11, and pleaded guilty to criminal charges of fraud on March 12, and is scheduled to be sentenced in June.

A former chairman of the Nasdaq stock exchange and noted Wall Street innovator, Madoff was a pillar of the wealthy and tight-knit Jewish community in Long Island and Florida.

Many of his thousands of victims were friends and respected figures from the worlds of finance, entertainment and charity. 

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