Prosecutors arguing that alleged $50 billion scammer Bernard Madoff should be put in jail immediately say that when Madoff's desk was searched following his arrest, investigators found approximately 100 signed checks totaling more than $173 million "ready to be sent out".
"The only thing that prevented the defendant from executing his plan to dissipate those assets was his arrest by the FBI," prosecutors say. "The defendant's recent distribution of jewelry and watches demonstrates a continuing intention to benefit those close to him to the detriment of his victims."
Prosecutors asked Judge Roland Ellis earlier this week to put Madoff in custody after they say Madoff violated the conditions of his bail agreement when he and his wife sent multiple packages worth more than $1 million containing such valuables as watches, jewelry and cufflinks to relatives and friends.
An earlier court order barred Madoff from "dissipating, concealing, or disposing of any money" or "personal property".
A defense motion saying that Madoff saw the expensive gifts as "sentimental personal items" shows that he "misses the point entirely" according to prosecutors.
Madoff's lawyers concede that on Christmas Eve, Madoff and his wife sent a number of packages to friends and family.
"Mr. Madoff gathered a number of watches that he collected over the course of years, knowing that, due to the sudden change in his circumstances, he would never have an occasion to wear these watches again," according to a brief filed by Madoff's attorneys, who say packages were sent to the Madoffs' sons, a daughter in-law, Madoff's brother and sister in-law, Mrs. Madoff's sister and a married couple who are close friends.
Madoff, say his attorneys, "simply did not realize" that the SEC order he consented to "pertained to these personal items". The jewelry has all since been recovered, according to Madoff's lawyers.
At Monday's hearing Judge Ellis questioned the validity of the government's request to put Madoff in custody considering that Madoff's current bail terms -- home confinement in his posh Manhattan penthouse -- had earlier been agreed upon by the government.
A federal prosecutor argued that the "dissipation of assets" could potentially harm investors seeking to recoup any of their losses from investing with Madoff.
On Monday, Madoff's attorney, Ira Sorkin made light of the government's claim, saying the cufflinks were worth twenty five dollars and the valuable property included a pair of $200 mittens Mrs. Ruth Madoff sent a friend. Madoff's bail is secured by his assets including a posh Manhattan apartment appraised by some at $7 million, an ocean retreat in Montauk, New York, and a Florida mansion in Palm Beach.
When Madoff was originally arrested in mid December, his bail terms included an electronic bracelet but allowed him to roam his exclusive upper East Side neighborhood during the daytime and only be confined in his home overnight. Within a week, and amid public outcry, those terms were amended to eliminate the provision that allowed Madoff freedom from confinement.
The judge's decision on whether or not Madoff should be sent to jail is expected tomorrow or Monday.
Madoff made headlines last month when an unsealed criminal complaint in federal court in New York charged that he has been running a decades long Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors of $50 billion dollars.