There’s bad news for the New York Mets that goes way beyond their perennial bullpen issues. A judge ruled owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz will have to forfeit as much as $83 million in allegedly ill-gotten gains and go to trial over another $303 million. Both findings are related to notorious Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff.
Bloomberg reports that U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff refused to dismiss the suit Monday as Wilpon and Katz had asked. Rakoff ruled that Madoff trustee Irving Picard can claim as much as $83.3 million without a trial. Picard will seek another $303 million, and must prove to a jury that the Mets owners and other defendants were “willfully blind” to the fraud.
“The court remains skeptical that the trustee can ultimately rebut the defendants’ showing of good faith, let along impute bad faith to all the defendants,” Rakoff said. “The principal issue remaining for trial is whether the defendants acted in good faith when they invested in Madoff securities in the two years prior to bankruptcy or whether, by contrast, they wilfully blinded themselves to Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.”
The news service notes the trial is set to start March 19 in Manhattan court. The fraud cost investors an estimated $20 billion in principal, Picard has said.
The Mets owners, after losing $500 million in the Ponzi scheme, have cut the team’s basic payroll to about $90 million this season, from $140 million. They also have sold seven minority ownership shares in the team, Wilpon said last month. His target is to sell a total of 10, $20 million shares, each representing about 4 percent of the franchise.