US judge tightens restrictions on Madoff

Bernard Madoff, the Wall Street fund manager who authorities say confessed to running a $50-billion fraud, was put under 24-hour detention in his Manhattan apartment on Friday “to prevent harm or flight”.

Madoff also agreed to the extension of court orders freezing his assets and the appointment of a receiver for his firm as investigators poured over masses of documents and conducted interviews into an alleged scam that has caused losses for charities and businesses around the world.

The main trade organisation for US accountants said it had begun an ethics investigation into the small accounting firm that supposedly signed off on the books of Madoff’s investment management business.

The order tightening Madoff’s bail conditions signed by US Judge Theodore Katz in the District Court in Manhattan said, “The defendant will employ a security firm to provide the following services to prevent harm or flight: round-the-clock monitoring at the defendant’s building, 24 hours per day, including video monitoring of the defendant’s apartment doors.”

With all the attention on the case, angry investors hiring lawyers to try to recover losses, and photographers, TV crews and journalists outside the building, authorities apparently decided to put Madoff under even more surveillance.

The order replaced an earlier night curfew as part of Madoff’s release on $10-million bail.

Madoff (70) and his wife, Ruth, have already surrendered their passports to authorities and put up three properties worth millions of dollars as collateral.

“The order speaks for itself,” said Daniel Horwitz, one of Madoff’s lawyers, after the new conditions were set.

Madoff will be under house arrest and direct monitoring by the FBI other than for scheduled court appearances, the order said. Additional guards will be provided on request.

Fraud charge
Madoff, who was arrested on December 11, is accused in a criminal complaint of one count of securities fraud. In the complaint Madoff is quoted as saying his investment business was a fraud, “basically, a giant Ponzi scheme” whereby earlier investors are paid off with the investments of newer clients.

The FBI, federal prosecutors and the US Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating whether Madoff may have swindled thousands of investors, including Jewish charities.

The Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles said on Friday it had appointed a committee to pursue the recovery of the defrauded assets after it had entrusted $18-million to Bernard L Madoff Investment Securities LLC.

“Agents are examining a voluminous amount of court documents and conducting numerous interviews,” FBI spokesperson Monica McLean said.

Lawyers expect a wave of legal action by angry investors that could last for years.

“We’ve been conducting an investigation into what, if any, legal remedies are available to those who have been in effect robbed by Mr Madoff,” said Robert Schachter of law firm Zwerling Schachter & Zwerling.

“Our goal is to come up with something that we think will hold water in court,” he said.

As part of another court order late on Thursday, Madoff consented to providing the US Securities and Exchange (SEC) Commission with a verified written accounting of his firm’s records by December 31.

These include “all assets, liabilities and property, bank accounts, brokerage accounts, investments, business interests, loans and lines of credit”, according to a court document.

His lawyer, Horwitz, said: “We are cooperating with government investigations and consented to the injunctions.”

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that an SEC memorandum showed Madoff’s firm may have had thousands of clients.

The report said the regulator and other investigators were also examining whether Ruth Madoff had any role in the alleged fraud.—Reuters


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