Judge Won’t Dismiss Mets-Madoff Suit; Team Owes Up To $83M

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — A judge ruled Monday that the Mets’ owners owe up to $83 million to the trustee recovering money for Bernard Madoff investors, though he expressed doubt that the trustee will succeed in proving at a trial this month that he’s entitled to as much as $303 million more.

WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell On The Story

U.S. District Judge Jed S. Rakoff issued his four-page ruling to narrow the subject of a March 19 trial in Manhattan that results from Trustee Irving Picard’s effort to force the club’s owners to pay as much as $1 billion into a fund established to repay thousands of investors cheated of billions of dollars during Madoff’s decades-long fraud.

Related: Kallas: No Surprise In Mets’ Court Decision | Coutinho: Reading Between The Lines Of Judge Rakoff’s Ruling

Last year, Rakoff had ruled that the team’s owners wouldn’t owe more than $386 million to other Madoff investors. He made it clear then that they would likely owe up to $83 million but said the trustee must prove that the Mets’ owners “willfully blinded” themselves to Madoff’s fraud to get more.

His ruling Monday determined that the exact amount up to $83 million won’t be left to the jury but will be decided by him in a future written decision, likely after he hears more from lawyers on both sides.

1010 WINS’ Al Jones reports

Rakoff rejected a request by lawyers for the Mets’ owners to rule that Picard was not entitled to more money, a ruling that would have eliminated the need for the trial.

The court “remains skeptical that the Trustee can ultimately rebut the defendants’ showing of good faith,” wrote Rakoff.

Rakoff had already limited what the team’s owners might have to pay to other Madoff investors to $386 million. The trustee had sought $1 billion.

He said he was concerned that much of the evidence offered by both sides in court papers so far would not be admissible at trial.

“Conclusions are no substitute for facts, and too much of what the parties characterized as bombshells proved to be nothing but bombast,” he wrote.

Amanda Remus, a spokeswoman for Picard, said the trustee and his lawyers were aware of Rakoff’s order and were reviewing it.

The trustee previously sued the Mets’ owners, saying they had to know Madoff was acting illegally. Lawyers for the Mets’ owners — Fred Wilpon, Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz — have repeatedly said that their clients had no idea Madoff wasn’t investing their money as he said he was.

“The principal issue remaining for trial is whether the defendants acted in good faith when they invested (with Madoff) in the two years prior to bankruptcy or whether, by contrast, they willfully blinded themselves to Madoff’s Ponzi scheme,” wrote Rakoff.

Thousands of investors lost billions of dollars in the fraud, which Madoff revealed in December 2008 when he confessed that statements telling investors they had about $68 billion weeks earlier were fraudulent. In fact, only several hundred million dollars were left.

In his lawsuit, Picard said the Mets’ owners received $83.3 million in fictitious profits and $301 million in principal in the two years before a bankruptcy filing was made regarding the Madoff assets.

Fred Wilpon said at an appearance in Port St Lucie, Fla. last week that the Mets’ owners plan to keep the franchise “for a very long time.”

He cited a slashed payroll and an encouraging outlook in the courts.

“When it started, there was a really big number out there and now — I’m not minimizing — but it’s a different number,” Wilpon said.

Madoff is serving a 150-year prison sentence in North Carolina for his multibillion-dollar fraud.

What do you make of the judgment? Sound off below…

(TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

  • Stupid Mets Fan

    I find it funny that Picard thinks that Madoff selectively ripped off and rewarded his investors. The man is a sociopath – he ripped EVERYBODY off. Picard went after Wilpon because he knew he could get millions from them. This whole Picard thing is a bad joke and everyone knows it. Should Wilpon sell the Mets? Yes, but not because of the Madoff scandal. They are bad baseball owners. The only decent trade they approved in the last 20 years was Mike Piazza.

  • donnab40

    I for one will always be a Mets fan-I’ve been a Mets fans since the day that I was born & I will be one until the day I die. Whether or not the Mets are around. I will however never support the Wilpons. I will not go into CitiField as long as the Wilpons are owners. It’s sad because CitiField is a beautiful stadium, the players are “Amazin”, they deserve better & so do we as fans. But I will never walk away from them.

  • Sad Mr. Met

    SELL !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Timothy

    I hope the Mets owners win the appeal, so they will sell minoroty shares to Steve Cohen and other owners.

  • donnab40

    This is when the Wilpons who are “SUPPOSED” 2 be in it for the love of the game-should sell & save the team. But ya know they aren’t going to do that. Because they are selfish a$$holes

  • Julius

    This is becoming a Greek Tragedy for Mets fans. Not only are the Wilpons in deep legal trouble and owe millions, but the Mets are also losing a ton of money.

    Since ’09, Citi revenue has dropped 30%. Premium tickets sales down 50%. Overall attendance had declined 26% to 2.3 million. Concessions revenue has dropped 28% & parking has dropped 37%

    This means it’s a sure thing the payroll for 2013 will go down as well. A call for scabs is in the horizon so all those Mets fans who call themselves players get ready to sign up. How much worst can you guys be compare to this year’s team.

    Is this a Greek Tragedy or a Mel Brooks sketch playing at Caesars Palace?

    • Ronnie Montrose Superfan

      I don’t know, but do you have an extra brown paper bag that I can cut three holes in, put over my head, and wear to games?

  • E, Woods

    I have always thought about the office of MLB Commissioner. There have been cases where the Commissioner stepped in to end a trade because it was not in the best interest of the game. If baseball is to survive into the future, owners should be admitted to the (Great Club) of MLB owners, based on their ABILITY to be an owner that will Represent MLB, the Town and Fan’s of that team. If there was a standard, The Pirates, Padres, Mets, and all the other (Small Market Teams) would not be allowed to (pretend) to represent their fans.

  • Reno Albert

    An indirect culprit here is the wonderful Commissioner, Sir Buddy Selig. Although he has done a fine job with Stand Up to Cancer, Selig is as much of a fraud as the Wilpon Family is by looking away from this scandal. Pete rose won’t be re-instated due to gambling? Well this ownership committed FRAUD.
    Selig needs to force them to sell the franchise now, Not next year. Besides the many people that got their life savings ripped off, the Mets fans are getting ripped off bigtime. This is simply disgusting because Bud Selif is good buddies with Freddie & Jeffee Boyee. Bud, for Baseball/s sake, force these men to sell!!!!
    Wait to see if they owe $83 million, $383 million. Give us a break. They owe $25 million to MLB. Sell more minority stakes. Stop the nonsense Selig.

    • Bud Selig

      So you’re passing the blame to the Commissioner and not to the people who are fully responsible, the Wilpons. I guess it’s easier the blame someone else for your misfortunes then to admit that the Mets collapse is the Mets themselves, your team.

      Let’s also put the blame where it should be as well, the Mets fans. They wanted to compete with the Yankees, forcing Wilpon to invest money he never had by signing free agents like Bonilla, Murray, Coleman, Beltran, Glavine, K-Rod, Pedro Martinez, Matzui, Bay, Alou, Santana Castillo, Wagner & Cedeno, just to name a few of the many free agents signed by the Mets because the fans screamed for the Mets to sign someone in order to compete.

      Mets fans wanted a new Stadium because the Yankees were building a new stadium. Yes, Mets fans, you know who you all are; you are responsible for this happening as well and now you’re crying.

      Good for you, you deserve this.

      • Timothy

        Please give the Wilpons another chance.

  • Done Coming

    I think it’s clear that they will owe more. Net withdrawals amount to another $300m, I believe. I like Picard’ s appeal case, and in the end I think someone will finger Saul Katz as knowing something.

    • White Plains Guy

      $300 million went up in smoke? Disappeared into thin air? Maybe Jon Corzine knows something, isn’t that a financial area that he specializes in?

  • MR MET


    • George

      You sound very upset Mr. Met. Get help before it you have a heart attack or seek counseling because if you think this is bad, wait until the Mets season starts where by mid June it will just get worst for the Mets and their fans.

      With no money & depth in their roster and sinking faster than the Titanic into the abyss of last place, the Mets will be using the starters & bullpen pitchers to play the field on their days off.

  • Kevin

    These pathetic numbskulls can’t even pay a 25 million dollar loan back to MLB. Where are they going to find an additional 83 million? Oh, I know…a Ponzi scheme for 20 million in minority ownership. This is more hiarious than “The Producers”!

    • Fres Wilponz

      Your mom’s heelprints are in the ceiling of my minivan.

  • Chess

    The exodus of Mets fans becoming Yankees fans begins. Not that it hasn’t already started because I believe this started years ago upon the Yankees winning 3 championships in a row with Jeter the Great leading the way.

  • just me !

    Not only time for the Wilpons to pay, but to cancel REO Speedwagon , Cheap Trick and the orange “U” tee shirts.

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