Philanthropist Jeffry Picower, a central figure in the Bernard Madoff fraud case, was pronounced dead Sunday after he was found unresponsive in his swimming pool at his Palm Beach, Fla., home, officials said.
Picower's wife, Barbara, and a housekeeper called police after discovering him in the water Sunday afternoon, according to officials.
Emergency service workers tried but failed to revive Picower, 67, and transported him to Good Samaritan Medical Center in West Palm Beach, where he was pronounced dead at about 1:30 p.m., said Joseph Sekula, a spokesman for the Palm Beach Fire Department.
Picower's wife and housekeeper pulled him from the pool, said Sekula. "He was pulseless upon arrival of crews so they started CPR immediately," said Sekula.
After working on Picower for about 20 minutes, the crew took him to the medical center, where his pulse returned, but he died a short time later, said Sekula.
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A lawyer and accountant, Picower was a successful entrepreneur who later entered the world of philanthropy. Among the recipients of Picower's largesse in 2002 was the Picower Institute for Medical Research in Manhasset, which became part of the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System. Also in 2002, Picower gave $50 million for brain and cognitive research to the Massachussetts Institute of Technology.
But earlier this year, Picower, his wife and the businesses they controlled became the target of allegations that they improperly received billions of dollars from Madoff's Ponzi scheme. Legal sources familiar with the Madoff case said that up until the time of his death, Jeffry Picower was a target of a continuing criminal probe into the Ponzi scheme.
Picower denied that he was aware of Madoff's fraud and pointed out that his charitable Picower Foundation had to shut down soon after the Ponzi scheme was uncovered in December 2008. However, despite Picower's claim that he was cheated by his friend Madoff, bankruptcy trustee Irving Picard in May sued him, his wife and several companies and foundations they were affiliated with in an effort to recoup more than $5 billion in allegedly fraudulent transfers from Madoff's companies. Picard has claimed in court that the money Picower and other select investors received from Madoff was nothing more than cash stolen from other investors. A hearing was scheduled Tuesday in the bankruptcy court case.
Picard also alleged that Picower himself played a role in backdating Madoff securities trading records to achieve fake gains or losses, apparently for tax reasons. Picard later increased his demand that Picower return up to $7 billion.
While Picard and his attorneys at the firm of Baker & Hostetler will continue their lawsuit against Picower's estate, it remained unclear Sunday how the financier's death would affect the case.