Madoff customer payout nears $14 billion, as dying swindler seeks freedom

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: File photo of Bernard Madoff exiting the Manhattan federal court house in New York

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Bernard Madoff’s former customers will soon see their total recovery approach $14 billion, a court-appointed trustee said on Friday, as the dying swindler awaits a decision on whether the U.S. government will support his request to leave prison early.

Irving Picard, the trustee liquidating Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, said he has begun distributing $369 million to holders of 854 accounts, bringing the total payout to all eligible customers to $13.93 billion.

The payout, including money committed by the Securities Investor Protection Corp, represents 80% of the $17.5 billion that Picard has said customers lost in Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, which prosecutors have called the largest ever.

Picard said 1,469, or 64%, of the 2,282 eligible customer accounts will have been fully paid following Friday’s payout.

Another $2.38 billion has been distributed to customers and other Madoff victims, including schools, charities and pension funds, from a U.S. Department of Justice compensation fund.

Madoff pleaded guilty in March 2009 to 11 criminal counts and has served nearly 11 years of his 150-year sentence.

A lawyer for Madoff requested his “compassionate release” on Feb. 5, saying the 81-year-old suffered from kidney failure and several other serious medical conditions, was confined to a wheelchair, and had fewer than 18 months to live.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan will respond to that request by March 4. Madoff’s victims faced a Friday deadline to comment, and their comments are expected to be made public.

Circuit Judge Denny Chin, who as a federal district judge called Madoff’s crimes “extraordinarily evil” when he imposed the 150-year sentence, will consider Madoff’s request for freedom.

Madoff is housed in a medical facility at the federal prison complex in Butner, North Carolina.

He has also asked President Donald Trump to commute his sentence. That request is pending.

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