BY JONATHAN STEMPEL
Bernard Madoff’s former customers will soon see their total recovery approach $14 billion, a court-appointed trustee said on Friday, as the dying swindler awaits a decision on whether the U.S. government will support his request to leave prison early.
Irving Picard, the trustee liquidating Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, said he has begun distributing $369 million to holders of 854 accounts, bringing the total payout to all eligible customers to $13.93 billion.
The payout, including money committed by the Securities Investor Protection Corp, represents 80% of the $17.5 billion that Picard has said customers lost in Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, which prosecutors have called the largest ever.
Picard said 1,469, or 64%, of the 2,282 eligible customer accounts will have been fully paid following Friday’s payout.
Another $2.38 billion has been distributed to customers and other Madoff victims, including schools, charities and pension funds, from a U.S. Department of Justice compensation fund.
Madoff pleaded guilty in March 2009 to 11 criminal counts and has served nearly 11 years of his 150-year sentence.
A lawyer for Madoff requested his “compassionate release” on Feb. 5, saying the 81-year-old suffered from kidney failure and several other serious medical conditions, was confined to a wheelchair, and had fewer than 18 months to live.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan will respond to that request by March 4. Madoff’s victims faced a Friday deadline to comment, and their comments are expected to be made public.
Circuit Judge Denny Chin, who as a federal district judge called Madoff’s crimes “extraordinarily evil” when he imposed the 150-year sentence, will consider Madoff’s request for freedom.
Madoff is housed in a medical facility at the federal prison complex in Butner, North Carolina.
He has also asked President Donald Trump to commute his sentence. That request is pending.