NY suit seeks $30 million in Madoff money

July 29, 2010 7:07:38 PM PDT
The court-appointed trustee seeking to recover billions of dollars lost by jailed financier Bernard Madoff sued three entities Thursday to get back more than $30 million that he said the Madoff family had invested, mostly in oil and gas properties and technology companies.

The three lawsuits filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan by Irving Picard are a follow-up to a lawsuit he filed in November seeking nearly $200 million from family members who he said lived lavishly while using the family finance business like a "piggy bank."

Picard wrote sarcastically in the latest lawsuits that Madoff was "quite generous" with the money he stole from thousands of customers in history's largest Ponzi scheme.

"Foremost among the recipients of Madoff's gifts of customer funds were his closest family members, including his wife Ruth Madoff, his brother Peter, his two sons Andrew and Mark and his niece Shana," Picard said.

"With respect to Mark and Andrew, the lawsuits are without merit, both factually and legally," said Martin Flumenbaum, a lawyer for Madoff's sons.

Peter Chavkin, a lawyer for Ruth Madoff, declined to comment.

Messages left with lawyers for Peter and Shana Madoff were not immediately returned.

The 72-year-old Madoff is serving a 150-year prison sentence after admitting that he never invested tens of billions of dollars he received from investors.

Defendants named in the lawsuits Thursday included Madoff Energy Holdings LLC, Conglomerate Gas Resources, Madoff Technologies, Madoff Brokerage & Trading Technology LLC, Primex Holdings LLC and Madoff Family LLC. Picard said the entities were controlled by Madoff family members, many of whom worked for Madoff.

The lawsuits sought more than $22 million invested in technology companies, more than $5 million invested in oil and gas properties and another $3 million from the Madoff Family Fund, which included investments in a hedge fund and a biotechnology company.

The lawsuits said the investments were used as vehicles to funnel money out of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities.

According to the lawsuits, the investment arm of Madoff's business generated account statements in early December 2008 for approximately 4,900 open customer accounts that claimed they were worth about $68 billion. In reality, Madoff had lost all but a trace of the original $20 billion invested by his customers, the lawsuits said.

Madoff confessed in December 2008 to his sons and later to the FBI that his business had operated for about two decades as a Ponzi scheme in which some investors were paid off with the money provided by new investors.