Madoff yacht seized, associates charged with fraud

By AFP

July 15, 2010 Updated Apr 1, 2009 at 5:02 PM CDT

US officials on Wednesday seized Wall Street conman Bernard Madoff's yacht and charged business associates who fed billions of dollars into his scheme with fraud.

US marshalls boarded the 55-foot (16.8-meter) yacht "Bull" at a marina in Florida, footage on NBC television showed. They also confiscated a smaller boat at another marina.

Madoff, 70, is in jail awaiting sentencing in June for running a multi-billion-dollar Ponzi fraud. He faces a sentence of up to 150 years.

Authorities in Massachusetts, meanwhile, targeted Fairfield Greenwich Group, a feeder fund that allegedly lied to clients while encouraging them to pour billions of dollars into Madoff's investment company.

In an administrative complaint, the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth said there was a "profound disparity" between the due diligence checks Fairfield told clients it was making on Madoff and those actually made.

Fairfield's "complete disregard of its fiduciary duties to investors and its flagrant and recurring misrepresentations to its investors rises to the level of fraud," the complaint read.

The regulators said they would seek a court order requiring restitution from Fairfield to victims.

Fairfield funneled more than seven billion dollars in funds to Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities before it was revealed to be a Ponzi scheme.

The scheme collapsed when too many clients asked to withdraw their capital and Madoff was arrested December 11.

Madoff claims he acted alone. However, the charge against Fairfield shows how his long-term associates helped prolong -- even if unwittingly -- his scheme.

Just over half of the 14 billion dollars that Fairfield had under management at the end of last year was tied up with Madoff Investments, according to the company.

Fees earned by Fairfield for generating investments in Madoff's fund reached some 100 million dollars annually, regulators said. Senior individuals in the firm also received huge compensation as a result of these fees.

One of Fairfield's founders, Jeffrey Tucker, testified that he earned 100 million dollars over 10 years from dealings with Madoff.

Regulators said that other documents dating to 2008 indicated that senior employees may have earned considerably more, with one partner earning in excess of 45 million dollars in 2007 and Tucker earning 30 million dollars in that year.

"Fairfield and its key personnel claim to have had no idea whatsoever that Madoff was anything other than the legitimate broker and brilliant market-timer they promoted him as," regulators said.

"They were blinded by the fees they were earning, did not engage in meaningful due diligence, and turned a blind eye to any fact that would have burst their lucrative bubble."

To submit a comment on this article, your email address is required. We respect your privacy and your email will not be visible to others nor will it be added to any email lists.