Bernard Madoff's criminal defense attorney, Ira Lee Sorkin has received death threats, hostile e-mails and now an anti-Semitic threat, ABC News has learned.
"This is in regard to your efforts on the behalf of Bernard Madoff. As one Jew to another I deeply regret that the Sorkin family did not perish in the Nazi death camps," read an email sent to Sorkin at 8:15am this morning, ABC News has learned.
ABC News is not publishing the identity of the sender until the sender has been reached for comment.
According to sources close to the defense team, Sorkin, a well regarded member of New York's defense bar, has received "between 12 and 15" e-mails of a "cursing", "screaming" nature. Mixed in, say sources, are also "a handful" of death threats.
News of the most recent email suggesting Sorkin and his family ought to have died at the hands of the Nazis arrived on the eve of a federal court hearing to rule on whether there is a conflict in Sorkin's representation of Madoff. Late Tuesday, the hearing was adjourned to next week because of scheduling reasons.
ABC News learned from investigators and lawyers in the case that one possible reason prosecutors would like Sorkin off the case is newly discovered evidence that Madoff created a phony account in the name of Sorkin, without the lawyer's knowledge, to allegedly move stolen money from his $50 billion Ponzi scheme into secret accounts overseas.
Sorkin was incredulous at that suggestion and he said it was just not true. "There are two reasons for the hearing. That is it," he said.
"Here are the reasons: the two issues are my representation of (Frank) Avellino and (Michael) Bienes 17 years and the account my father had with Madoff, which was then conveyed to my mother [both of Sorkin's parents are now deceased] ....which I have already addressed," said Sorkin.
The accountants Avellino and Bienes were linked to Madoff, court documents in the case showed. In a deal with the SEC, Avellino shut down his firm, returned money to investors and paid a $350,000 fine.
Madoff was not sued by the SEC in the 1992 case.
An official announcement from Judge Leonard Sand called the hearing a "counsel conflict," without any further explanation. The clerk of the court said the hearing "is over a potential conflict of interest between Mr. Madoff and his attorney."
Madoff will appear at the hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Sand, officials said. A clerk in the judge's chambers said the hearing was scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday, before it was rescheduled for sometime next week.
Madoff, 70, has been charged in a $50 billion worldwide Ponzi scheme in which early investors are redeemed with the money of new clients.
The once-respected Wall Street trader and investment manager was arrested and charged with fraud in December after authorities said he confessed to running the scheme over many years. He is the only person charged in the purported fraud and has not appeared in court to formally answer the charge.
Last month, Sorkin's name appeared on a mailing list of 13,000 individuals and institutions filed by the trustee winding down Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York. Sorkin said the listing was the result of his father's account and that account was the second reason for the hearing.
This post has been updated.