Bernie Madoff victims get $159 million from Ponzi recovery fund in latest payout

The fund for victims of Bernie Madoff’s historic Ponzi scheme has begun its ninth payout, distributing about $159 million in government-seized funds to nearly 25,000 people worldwide, the Department of Justice said Monday.

The announcement, made 15 years after Madoff’s arrest — and more than two years after his death in prison — underscored the continuing impact of Madoff’s nearly $65 billion securities fraud scam.

The collapse of the world’s largest fraud scheme “devastated thousands of lives,” said Nicole Argentieri, acting assistant attorney general of the DOJ’s criminal division, in a press release.

With its latest distribution, the fund has paid out over $4.2 billion to more than 40,800 victims who lost money from the scheme, the DOJ said.

The Madoff Victim Fund has now helped recover “over 90% of victim losses,” Argentieri said.

The victims of Madoff’s decadeslong fraud included major celebrities and financial institutions. But they also included charities and pension funds that invested money for people “working paycheck-to-paycheck who were relying on their pension accounts for their retirements,” noted U.S. Attorney Damian Williams.

Madoff in March 2009 admitted stealing billions of dollars from his clients by running his investment advisory business, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, as a giant Ponzi scheme. He pleaded guilty to 11 federal felonies and was sentenced to 150 years in prison.

The victims fund has collected about $2.2 billion through a civil forfeiture recovery from the estate of Jeffrey Picower, the late Madoff investor and top beneficiary of the scheme.

An additional $1.7 billion came in 2014 from JPMorgan Chase, the bank Madoff used to run his Ponzi scheme, as part of a deferred prosecution agreement with the DOJ.

The rest came from “a civil forfeiture action against investor Carl Shapiro and his family, and from civil and criminal forfeiture actions against Madoff, Peter B. Madoff, and their co-conspirators,” the DOJ said in Monday’s release.