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Nearly 52,000 Seek Relief From Madoff Victims Fund

Bernard L. Madoff leaves US Federal Court after a hearing regarding his bail on January 14, 2009 in New York. (credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

Bernard L. Madoff leaves US Federal Court after a hearing regarding his bail on January 14, 2009 in New York. (credit: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

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GREENWICH, Conn. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Officials say the number of victims seeking relief for fraud committed by Madoff Securities is much larger — and with much larger losses — than previously thought.

The U.S. Department of Justice official in charge of administering the Madoff Victim Fund said Tuesday that the fund has received more than 51,700 claims from investors. There were claims from investors in 119 countries who claim they lost more than $40 million in disgraced financier Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.

“Other than the Gobi desert and the polar icecaps, few places on earth seem to have escaped the scourge of this fraud,” Special Master Richard Breeden said in a statement. “This fraud was of epic, and truly global, proportions.”

The fund said that claims came from countries on every continent other than Antarctica.

“We have had a literal avalanche of claims and related paperwork,” Breeden told WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman.

The claims have not been reviewed to eliminate ineligible, duplicate or overstated claims, which the fund expects to be substantial. But the flood of requests gives a new indication of the size and global reach of the Madoff fraud.

The fund plans to distribute just over $4 billion assets forfeited in the Madoff case. It’s separate from a bankruptcy court proceeding that has recovered money to redistribute to burned Madoff clients.

The fund currently has only enough to pay out 10 cents on the dollar.

Officials said the fund has received more than three times as many claims as filed in the bankruptcy proceedings. The majority of the claims are for amounts up to 500,000. About 9.5 percent are for losses between $500,000 and $1 million. And approximately 13 percent reported losses of more than $1 million.

“Seventy-five percent of the people who filed claims with us have not yet gotten one dollar back in the last five years,” Breeden told Silverman.

Breeden said it’s too early to tell when checks will start going out.

Bernie Madoff is serving a 150-year prison sentence for bilking thousands of people of nearly $20 billion.

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