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.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis)