On the hook for billions because of his ties to swindler Bernard Madoff, philanthropist Jeffry Picower filed court papers Friday saying he was a victim of the Ponzi scheme and is being unfairly targeted by the trustee trying to recover customer funds.
Picower, 67, whose Picower Foundation had to close its doors in December because of losses in the fraud, said in documents filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan that he "genuinely believed in the personal and professional integrity of Bernie Madoff."
Picower also said that a lawsuit filed in May against him and his wife, Barbara, by Irving Picard, the special trustee handling the bankruptcy of Madoff's company, was a "paradigm of excess" that reflected a "frenzied effort" to recover large sums from one of Madoff's wealthiest investors. He is asking that Picard's litigation, which is seeking $2.4 billion in fictitious profits, be dismissed.
Picard has alleged in court documents that the high rate of return Picower received from Madoff should have put him on notice about the fraud. Madoff is serving a 150-year prison sentence.
If he had known that Madoff was a fraud, Picower said in his filings, he wouldn't have transferred money into the swindler's company, nor left $500 million of his wife's, daughter's and foundation money in accounts that were later destroyed in the scandal.
Madoff's reputation, his strong reported investment returns and customer service all contributed to Picower being taken in by the scam like so many other respected people, the court filings stated.
Picower, a Palm Beach, Fla., native, made a splash on Long Island in the 1990s and earlier this decade when his foundation bankrolled the Picower Institute for Medical Research, which was later absorbed by North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System.