October 25 2009
Palm Beach billionaire Jeffry Picower, described as the biggest beneficiary of Bernard Madoff’s fraud, died on Sunday after he was found lying at the bottom of the pool at his home, police said.
Emergency services were called to the oceanside mansion after Picower, 67, was pulled from the pool by his wife and a housekeeper and he was later pronounced dead, the Palm Beach Post reported quoting police and Fire Rescue officials.
Police were investigating the death as a drowning, the newspaper said. It reported he was not breathing when he was pulled from the pool and paramedics worked unsuccessfully for 20 minutes at the scene to try to revive him.
Picower and his wife, Barbara, were friends of Wall Street financier Madoff, who is serving a 150-year sentence after pleading guilty to running a $65 billion Ponzi scheme.
The trustee handling the Madoff fraud case, Irving Picard, said in court documents filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York late last month that Picower, newly listed as one of the 400 wealthiest Americans by Forbes magazine, was complicit in the fraud.
Part of Picard’s filing said: “Based upon the trustee’s investigation to date, Picower was the biggest beneficiary of Madoff’s scheme, having withdrawn either directly or through the entities he controlled more than $7.2 billion of other investors’ money.”
Picower was being sued for the $7.2 billion, $2 billion more than the trustee in the case demanded in May.
He was listed 371st and worth $1 billion on the latest published Forbes list.
Picower started out as an accountant and lawyer and then made money investing in the medical sector.
He and his wife headed a philanthropy, the Picower Foundation. The foundation closed when the Madoff fraud unraveled last December.
A spokeswoman for the Picowers’ attorney, William Zabel, has rejected Picard’s accusations against Picower as “false and outrageous claims … based on a misreading of the purported ‘facts’.”
She said the Picowers initiated discussions to reach a settlement with the trustee, who is winding down Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC.
Picard, who is leading a global search under the Securities Investor Protection Act to recover money for thousands of defrauded investors, has collected about $1.5 billion, but has sued for some $15 billion.
The case is Irving H. Picard, trustee for the liquidation of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC v. Jeffry M. Picower 09-01197 in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
(Reporting by Pascal Fletcher and Grant McCool, editing by Chris Wilson)