Trustee in Madoff case is suing local victims | AspenTimes.com

Trustee in Madoff case is suing local victims

Rick CarrollThe Aspen TimesAspen, CO Colorado

Bernie Madoff

ASPEN – Six Aspen-area victims of jailed stock broker Bernie Madoff face lawsuits in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan for allegedly pocketing “other people’s money” produced by the Ponzi scheme, according to court documents.The defendants are among hundreds of Madoff victims whom bankruptcy trustee Irving Picard has sued since early December. As the court-appointed trustee, Picard is charged with distributing assets from Madoff’s estate to the victims. In a bid to recoup the lost funds, Picard has been suing victims who allegedly withdrew more funds from the Madoff account – Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC – than they invested. The suits allege the victims took money that theoretically was not theirs. Among the local Madoff victims who are being sued are:• Aspen Fine Arts Co. – The suit claims that the corporate entity, controlled by Aspen resident Melvin Knyper, has received “$4,485,00 of other people’s money.”• Edward Calesa – The suit alleges that the Basalt resident has received $3,122,793 of “fictitious profits from the Ponzi scheme.” • Stephen Goldenberg – The Aspen resident brought in $4 million that Picard wants returned.• Jillian Wernick Livingston – The suit alleges that the Snowmass Village resident earned $578,737 in excess profits.• Richard Poland – Picard claims that the Aspen man received $1,359,000 that is not rightfully his.• Harold Thau – Thau, the manager for the late John Denver, ran The Aspen Co., which generated $1,957,000 that Picard is trying to recoup. Not all of the victims could be reached for comment. Those who were contacted declined comment or did not respond to messages.Manhattan attorney Brian Neville represents more than 100 Madoff victims being sued by trustee Picard. In a telephone interview Friday, Neville said the suits lack merit. “It really is so unfair to be sued by a trustee over withdrawals over the life of an account,” Neville said. “The trustee is seeking to get back withdrawals from these people’s accounts that exceed the amounts of their deposits, which is just so unfair.” Neville also is a member of the law firm Lax & Neville LLP, which is suing the U.S. government on behalf of numerous Madoff victims. The suits were filed in the same time period Picard’s were. The lawsuits filed by the Madoff victims against the U.S. government, and the ones filed against the victims by the trustee, “are mutually exclusive to a large degree,” Neville said.Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, the suits against the U.S. government says, was “due to the gross negligence of the United States Securities and Exchange Commission,” which “during the past 16 years … was given copious opportunities to stop Madoff’s fraud” and “failed to recognize any of the smoking guns provided to the SEC by credible third parties and industry experts.”Local Madoff victims suing the U.S. include Gary Albert (who is seeking $9.4 million), Aspen Fine Arts ($19.8 million), Calesa ($11.5 million) and Goldenberg ($6.3 million). Approximately 30 Madoff victims reside in the Aspen-Snowmass area. At a press conference earlier this month, Picard indicated he was willing to try to settle the suits rather than battle them out in court.”We must recover those funds and restore them to their rightful owners,” Picard was quoted by The Associated Press as saying. “However, and I underscore the however, we recognize that many individuals are not in a financial position to return part or even all of their excess withdrawals, and we are prepared, as we always have been, to work with them.”Madoff, 72, is serving a 150-year term at a medium-security, federal penitentiary in Butner, N.C. His Ponzi scheme is estimated to have cheated investors out of more than $65 billion, though actual losses have been estimated to be $18 billion, based on Picard’s calculations. rcarroll@aspentimes.com