Madoff Victims To Get Billions More Back

The trustee managing the liquidation of Bernie Madoff's investment firm will have an additional $7.2 billion to distribute to victims of Madoff's Ponzi scheme. That's after Friday's settlement with the estate of one of Madoff's biggest investors, a man who withdrew billions of dollars from Madoff funds before the collapse.

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Victims of Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme may finally get some of their money back. U.S. officials said they've recovered $7.2 billion from the estate of a late investor who got sizable payoffs from Mr. Madoff's firm.

NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.

JIM ZARROLI: Ever since Bernie Madoff's arrest in December 2008, U.S. officials have been looking for ways to recover some of the estimated $20 billion that investors lost. They've seized property and homes, frozen bank accounts and sued banks and hedge funds that did business with Madoff. Yesterday, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara announced the largest fortitude of money in law enforcement history.

Mr. PREET BHARARA (U.S. Attorney, Southern District of New York): Today's settlement marks a major milestone. We're close to $10 billion now recovered. We have together collected close to 50 percent of the principal that victims lost to Madoff's Ponzi scheme.

ZARROLI: The $7.2 billion came from the estate of Jeffrey Picower, who died of a heart attack in the swimming pool of his Palm Beach mansion 14 months ago. During a 30-year relationship with Madoff, Picower steered lots of investors his way and profited nicely from doing so.

Rob Stein is president of the Network for Investor Action and Protection, which represents Madoff victims.

Mr. ROB STEIN (President, Network for Investor Action and Protection): I mean obviously he was close to Bernie Madoff and a tremendous amount of money was ushered through him to Madoff and a tremendous amount of money was pulled out.

ZARROLI: U.S. officials refused to comment yesterday about Picower's role in the fraud, saying that because he's dead it's a mute point, and his widow insists he knew nothing about what was happening. But she agreed to surrender money that investigators say he took from Madoff's firm over the years.

Whatever the case, the money will be put in a fund intended to compensate the investors who lost money to Madoff. Stein says the money won't come a moment too soon.

Mr. STEIN: I think where the frustration is amongst most of the victims is how few settlements have actually taken place up till now. And the fact of the matter is the trustee has been going after these individuals for the better part of two years.

ZARROLI: Many of Madoff's victims are elderly or retired and are struggling to get by today. Now the trustee appointed by a bankruptcy court to recover their money says they will get back at least 50 cents on the dollar, perhaps as early as next month, and the recovery effort isn't over.

Jim Zarroli, NPR News, New York.

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