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Officials seize Madoff mansion, sea vessels

Thu., April 2, 2009

PALM BEACH, Fla. – Federal authorities seized disgraced financier Bernard Madoff’s Palm Beach mansion, his vintage yacht and a smaller boat Wednesday, part of an effort to recoup assets to pay back investors he swindled.

Barry Golden, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service, said about five marshals arrived at the 8,753-square-foot, five-bedroom mansion late Wednesday afternoon, hours after the boats were seized. Authorities spent about three hours securing the mansion, changing the locks and conducting an inventory of the property, which Palm Beach County records show had a taxable value of $9.3 million last year.

Golden said marshals filmed and photographed items in the house that might be removed at some point.

“It’s not an April Fools’ joke,” he said.

The mansion was unoccupied when federal authorities arrived, and the inspection took longer than expected because so many locks needed to be changed. They left about 9 p.m. after setting the alarm and posting a “No trespassing” sign on a window.

Palm Beach County property records show the Madoff mansion was purchased in 1994 under his wife Ruth’s name for $3.8 million. The 2008 property tax bill was $157,298.

Golden said the estate would be “monitored and maintained” and is no longer considered Madoff’s property.

“Once the judge signed the order, it stopped being Bernie Madoff’s home,” Golden said.

Earlier in the day, Golden said Madoff’s 55-foot yacht named “Bull” and a 24-foot motorboat were taken from marinas on Florida’s east coast. The yacht, a 1969 Rybovich, is worth $2.2 million.

Madoff, 70, is in jail in New York awaiting sentencing after he pleaded guilty to swindling billions from investors in what could be the biggest scam in Wall Street history. He faces up to 150 years behind bars.

Prosecutors are seizing as much as they can of Madoff’s personal fortune, and have begun demanding millions of dollars in payments from his relatives. Roughly 6,700 people have filed claims for a share of whatever is recovered. Thousands more – some who lost in excess of $1 million – are expected to come forward.

Court documents filed by Madoff’s attorneys indicate Madoff and his wife had up to $826 million in assets – including the boats – at the end of last year.


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