By Anthony M. Destefano
MELVILLE, N.Y. (Newsday) — Checks totaling nearly $2.5 billion were mailed late Wednesday to hundreds of victims of Bernard Madoff as part of the recovery of cash in Wall Street’s largest Ponzi scheme, according to the trustee handling the mammoth recovery operation.
The money represents about 33 percent of the original investment lost by 1,230 customers of Madoff who have been allowed claims to recover the cash they put up in the scheme, which lost all investors about $17.5 billion when the scheme collapsed in late 2008.
Average payments in the latest round of checks amounted to just more than $2 million, with the smallest check being a little less than $2,000 and the largest at $526 million, trustee Irving Picard said in a statement Thursday morning. Of the 1,230 claims, 182 are now fully satisfied, Picard noted.
In the early days of the Madoff scandal, some estimated that customers would only recover 2 percent or 3 percent of their original investments.
Combined with an earlier distribution of more than $325 million, customers with allowed claims have recovered on average 38.1 percent of their original investments, according to Picard.
Since December 2008, Picard has been on a worldwide search for assets in the fraud and has recovered more than $9 billion, representing about 53 percent of the principal lost by Madoff’s customers. Because of pending litigation and other negotiations, Picard is holding back more than $3 billion.
Because customers have also received advances of more than $800 million from the nonprofit Securities Investor Protection Corp., a total of $3.6 billion has been returned to date to Madoff’s victims, said Picard.
“While this progress is extremely gratifying, we will not cease our work to continue recovering assets,” Picard said in a statement.