Mets, Madoff case going to trial

Mets principal owner Fred Wilpon.

The hits keep on coming for the Mets. And not the ones on the field.

U.S. District Court Judge Jed S. Rakoff ruled Monday in favor of Bernie Madoff trustee Irving Picard in the first step of what could lead to a damaging trial for Mets ownership.

The lawyers for Mets owner Fred Wilpon had filed a motion for the case to be dismissed. Rakoff ruled against them, meaning the Mets will pay up to $83 million to the trustee now and a jury trial will get underway March 19. If the jury rules in favor of Picard, the Mets could lose another $303 million.

Picard, who is in charge of reclaiming money from those who benefited from the Madoff Ponzi scheme on behalf of those who were defrauded, argued he was entitled to the $83 million in profits Wilpon made in the two years prior to Madoff’s arrest. With today’s ruling, the judge agreed.

The bigger trouble comes when the jury trial begins in two weeks. The Wilpons stand to lose $303 million in damages if they lose. Picard had originally filed for $1 billion in damages, but Rakoff reduced that to $386 million, including the $83 million the Mets ownership lost today.

For Mets fans looking on the bright side, Rakoff did say in his written judgment today that “[the] Court remains skeptical that the Trustee can ultimately rebut the defendants’ showing of good faith.”

The Mets took a $40 million bank loan in December due to their financial issues. Wilpon spoke at spring training camp last week, however, and said the team was close to agreeing to seven minority stakes in the club, each worth $20 million. The team is looking to raise about $200 million to pay off the loan and remain financially solvent.


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