U.S. marshals have seized Bernard Madoff's Palm Beach, Fla., mansion and two boats in the latest effort to pay back the scores of investors the disgraced financier is accused of bilking in a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme.
Barry Golden, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service, said about five U.S. marshals arrived at the 8,753-square-foot, five-bedroom mansion Wednesday afternoon.
Authorities planned to enter and secure the mansion, change the locks and conduct an inventory of the unoccupied property, which Palm Beach County records show had a taxable value of $9.3 million last year.
Those records also show the mansion was purchased in 1994 under his wife Ruth's name for $3.8 million and the 2008 property tax bill was $157,298.
Earlier Wednesday, federal agents seized two boats owned by Madoff, including an antique yacht.
The 55-footer named "Bull" and a 24-foot motor boat were hauled from marinas on Florida's east coast, said Barry Golden, a spokesman for the U.S. Marshals Service.
The yacht, a 1969 Rybovich, is worth $2.2 million.
"A lot of money was put into maintaining this boat," said Golden. "This boat was extremely well kept, extremely clean. Engine compartment was spotless. It looked like somebody took a bottle of 409 and scrubbed it every day."
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The seizure of Madoff's possessions and properties is part of the effort to recoup assets in order to pay back his down-and-out investors, many of whom lost their life savings in the fraud scheme — estimated at up to $65 billion.
Prosecutors are seizing as much as they can of Madoff's personal fortune, and have begun demanding millions of dollars in payments from his relatives. Roughly 6,700 people have filed claims for a share of whatever is recovered. Thousands more — some who lost in excess of $1 million — are expected to come forward.
Last month, the feds went after jewelry belonging to Madoff's wife Ruth, along with other family assets. They also have set their sights on all four of the Madoff homes.
One of those mansions is a $1 million chateau in Antibes, France. Lawyers for a court-appointed trustee who tracked down more than $1 billion of Madoff's assets predicted that "the French will grab" the Madoff chateau, according to Reuters.
U.S. prosecutors also have been working with a British agency that investigates organized crime in the case, Reuters reported from a hearing held last month in the case.
Court documents filed by Madoff's attorneys indicate Madoff and his wife had up to $826 million in assets at the end of last year.
If prosecutors get their way, Madoff and his wife, who has not been charged, will have to give up all of them, including their other two homes: a $7 million Manhattan penthouse bought in 1984, and a $3 million luxury home on New York's Long Island.
Defense attorneys have indicated they may try to keep the Manhattan apartment, as well as about $62 million in securities, for his wife.
The government also wants Madoff and his wife to forfeit $10 million in furnishings for all the homes and luxury cars, and loans the Madoffs made to their sons, Mark and Andrew, among them an Oct. 6 promissory note for $4.3 million to Andrew and a Sept. 21 note for $250,000 to Andrew.
The loans came less than three months before Madoff admitted to them that his investment business was a complete fraud.
In all, the government cites $22 million in loans to Mark and $9.55 million in loans to Andrew. The document lists 2005 as a particularly busy year, when Mark received $16 million in loans and Andrew received $5 million in loans.
Madoff has insisted that his family was not involved in the fraud, but the attempt to seize the loans is a sign that prosecutors are intensifying scrutiny of the sons as they investigate how the scam was carried out.
Prosecutors have also been going after Madoff's business interests. The businesses in which the Madoffs would have to relinquish any ownership interest include real estate partnerships, a New Jersey cancer clinic and PJ Clarke's on the Hudson, a tavern located in the financial district.
Also Wednesday, Massachusetts' top securities regulator accused a major feeder fund for Madoff's investment scheme of misrepresenting its lack of knowledge about Madoff's operations.
Secretary of State William Galvin accused Fairfield Greenwich Group of Connecticut of civil fraud charges, saying company officials were coached by Madoff on how to answer federal investigator's questions about his investment practices and misrepresented how much they really knew.
As far back as April 2008, Galvin said, Fairfield Greenwich principals began discussing the risk that Madoff would "blow up" but didn't disclose that risk to investors.
He also said that Fairfield Greenwich kept a database of standardized responses to investors' questions, designed to reassure them that the firm had adequate controls to supervise assets at Madoff's company.
The administrative complaint seeks restitution for Massachusetts investors for losses from Fairfield Greenwich.
Fairfield Greenwich spokesman Thomas Mulligan the company is still examining the complaint and had no immediate comment. The company has previously said it performed extensive due diligence and was itself a victim of Madoff.
Madoff, 70, is in jail pending sentencing for pleading guilty to charges he swindled billions from investors in what could be the biggest scam in Wall Street history.
The former Nasdaq stock market chairman faces a maximum sentence of 150 years behind bars.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.