Court filing reveals Madoff's net worth at least $823 million

ByKevin McCoy, USA TODAY
March 13, 2009, 8:59 PM

NEW YORK -- Convicted swindler Bernard Madoff and his wife, Ruth, owned net assets of at least $823 million as of the close of 2008, newly filed court records showed Friday.

Madoff, who pleaded guilty Thursday to fleecing investors in a massive Ponzi scheme, lived large and luxurious, according to the statement of his financial condition that was filed in a federal appeals court in a bid to free him from a federal jail pending sentencing.

The sworn statement outlined the lifestyle of the rich and infamous and showed many of the assets were held by Madoff's wife or by a company she controls:

•Homes in Manhattan, Montauk, Palm Beach and France: $22 million.

•Cash: $17 million

•Securities: $45 million.

•Madoff's net ownership interest in his investment business: $700 million.

•Four boats, including a 2006 yacht in France called "Bull": $9.3 million.

•A 50% interest in a charter jet: $12 million.

•Ruth Madoff's jewelry: $2.6 million.

•A Steinway piano and silverware in couple's $7 million Manhattan apartment: $104,000.

In all, the sworn statement, signed by Madoff on Dec. 31, listed total assets between $823 million and $826 million, and total liabilities of $265,000. The statement was prepared for the Securities and Exchange Commission, but was not previously made public.

Federal prosecutors are expected to try to seize many of the assets through forfeiture proceedings following Madoff's guilty plea to securities fraud, mail fraud, perjury and other charges.

But Madoff's lawyers argued in a previously filed court motion that the $7 million Manhattan apartment, $45 million in municipal bonds and $17 million in a Wachovia bank account belong to Ruth Madoff, "are unrelated" to the fraud, and should not be seized.

"I'm getting sick hearing this. I really am," Madoff scam victim Ronnie Sue Ambrosino, said Friday after hearing about the assets statement.

Though undeniably large, the nine-figure size of the Madoffs' holdings is dwarfed by the nearly $65 billion scam total prosecutors estimated from the disgraced financier's business records. Most of that money is gone, prosecutors charged in court this week.

"I think we're just seeing the tip of the iceberg here," said Ambrosino, who with her husband, Dominic, lost more than $1.6 million to the fraud. "What's below the waterline? I think he still has a lot more money out there."

Madoff remained in jail Friday at the Manhattan Correctional Center. He was taken there after U.S. District Judge Denny Chin canceled his $10 million bail and ordered him behind bars pending a June 16 sentencing where Madoff will face a maximum term of 150 years, plus billions in restitution, fines and forfeiture.

A three-judge federal appeals court panel scheduled a Thursday hearing on the bail issue.

In a legal memorandum, defense attorney Ira Lee Sorkin argued that Madoff posed neither a threat to flee, nor a danger to the community — the two standards for bail rulings.

Chin erred because Madoff's assets have been frozen since his Dec. 11 arrest, giving him no means to flee, Sorkin argued in the court filing. He also argued that Chin wrongly concluded that the guilty plea and looming prison term increased the flight risk.

"The reality of a life in prison term is not a recent revelation to Mr. Madoff, but an inevitability that he has been aware of since his arrest, if not earlier," Sorkin argued. "The fact that he has not pled guilty does not change the fact that Mr. Madoff is not, and never was, a flight risk."

Sorkin also argued that keeping Madoff jailed pending sentencing would make it more difficult for him to help his defense team analyze and challenge the accuracy of more than $170 billion in forfeitures demanded by prosecutors.