Madoff trustee asks for firms, property and artwork

NEW YORK Tue Mar 3, 2009 8:44pm GMT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A court-appointed trustee in the case against Bernard Madoff has asked a judge if he may take over ownership of the accused swindler's firm, an associated trading firm, property, artwork and corporate entertainment tickets.

Court documents seen Tuesday said the trustee, New York lawyer Irving Picard, had made the request with the consent of other civil and criminal investigators as part of efforts to recover assets for Madoff's customers.

Madoff, a once-respected Wall Street trader and investment manager, was arrested and charged with fraud on December 11 after authorities said he confessed to running a $50 billion Ponzi scheme over many years. He is the only person charged in the purported scheme, in which early investors are paid with the money of new clients.

The document filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan said Picard was seeking control of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC (BLMIS) and Primex Holdings LLC "and any membership or ownership interest therein." Primex was a digital trading firm that operated out of Madoff's New York headquarters in what is known as the "Lipstick Building."

The trustee said he wanted Madoff to voluntarily hand over "all of his rights, title and interests" to the firms, property and other assets he listed.

The filing comes after a U.S. judge Monday partially lifted a freeze on assets of Madoff and his wife Ruth Madoff so he can cooperate with Picard. Monday, lawyers for Ruth Madoff asserted that her $7 million Manhattan apartment and $62 million in accounts were unrelated to the purported fraud.

The trustee requests real estate of BLMIS, Primex and two warehouses in the New York City borough of Queens that investigators said in February contained 7,000 unmarked boxes of documents.

If, as expected, U.S. District Court Judge Louis Stanton approves the request, the trustee would take over all the furniture, computer hardware, software, network equipment, facilities and paperwork from BLMIS and Primex.

He would also acquire artwork and corporate entertainment tickets bought or used by the Madoff firm.

Madoff was known to be a fan of the New York Mets Major League Baseball team. The team owner, Fred Wilpon, was among thousands of investors who lost money by investing with Madoff over the years.

Picard said in February that he had recovered $946.4 million for customers. About 2,350 claims have been filed with Securities Investor Protection Corp, a nonprofit established by Congress in 1970 to keep a reserve fund for the customers of failed brokerages.

The civil case is Securities and Exchange Commission v. Madoff et al 08-10791 U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

(Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)