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Madoff victims are out $21.2 billion, says Picard

Investors have so far lost $21.2 billion in the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme, an amount that has increased by about $7 billion in the past few months, bankruptcy trustee Irving Picard told reporters Wednesday.

Recapping the massive investigation in the wake of the largest Ponzi scheme in Wall Street history, Picard said those losses could change.

Picard's disclosure came on the same day that Madoff's top lieutenant in the fraud, Frank DiPascali Jr., failed again to get bail from a Manhattan federal judge. DiPascali plead guilty to fraud in August.

A price tag of $64.8 billion was initially put on Madoff's scheme, the total bogus value of customers' accounts. More recently the losses narrowed between $13 billion to $21 billion.

Picard said the losses involved 2,335 accounts in which the customers had net losses, meaning they lost money they had placed with Madoff's investment company. An additional 2,568 accounts involve "net winners," those who withdrew their investments and more before the scheme collapsed. Picard didn't have an estimate for that group.

Some investors are challenging Picard's method of calculating losses and a bankruptcy ruling is expected next year. But officials said any ruling would be appealed, something that could delay resolution of the case for years.

A total of 4,903 customers had active accounts when Madoff's company went bust Dec. 11. So far, customers have been given advances by the Securities Investor Protection Corp., the nonprofit body that tries to safeguard customers' investments in securities fraud cases, totaling $534.25 million, an amount greater than any case in SIPC's history, said agency chief executive Stephen Harbeck.

U.S. District Judge Richard Sullivan in Manhattan said prosecutors and defense attorneys had not given him enough information to decide if DiPascali should get a $10-million bail. Sullivan appeared irritated with the lack of specifics in the lawyers' papers, particularly about what additional targets remained in the probe.

One big target, Madoff, is in prison for 150 years in North Carolina and someone else was in a swimming pool in Florida, said Sullivan, in a veiled reference to financier Jeffry Picower, a Madoff friend who drowned at his Palm Beach home Sunday.

Sullivan asked the lawyers to file more papers but hinted that DiPascali's big hope of being freed might only come if he gets a break for his cooperation after he is formally sentenced. He faces an effective life term.

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