Federal prosecutors want to go after just about everything Wall Street scammer Bernard Madoff and his wife, Ruth, have - including the silverware and the kitchen sink - because the items are considered fruit of his massive Ponzi scheme, officials said Monday.


In an effort to squeeze the Madoffs for what investigators believe is more than $170 billion in ill-gotten gains, prosecutors filed a notice in Manhattan federal court saying they intend to try and forfeit all kinds of property from the couple.

Four Madoff homes - in Montauk, Manhattan, Palm Beach and Cap d'Antibes, France - are in the sights of federal investigators, according to court papers. Financial documents filed by the Madoffs indicate that Ruth owns the properties in Palm Beach, Manhattan and France.

According to the filing, for each property the government said it wants "appurtenances, improvements and fixtures," which means things like the bathtub and kitchen sink.

Prosecutors said they also are seeking to seize a yacht moored in France, three fishing boats, two Mercedes-Benz vehicles, one BMW and a Volkswagen Touareg. In addition, the federal government said it wants to seize Ruth's $39,000 Steinway piano and her silverware set valued at $65,000, according to the court records.

Ruth Madoff, who is listed in some government and court filings as having an ownership interest in some of her husband's businesses, may also see her big bank accounts depleted. Some $17 million in a Wachovia Bank account and $45 million held in her name at COHMAD Securities are also being targeted for forfeiture, according to the government's filings.

Jerry Reisman of Garden City, who represents some bilked investors, said it's implausible that Ruth Madoff earned so much money. "To say that her $93 million in assets were derived from her work as a bookkeeper for Madoff Securities is absurd," Reisman said.

Defense attorneys Ira Sorkin and Dan Horwitz couldn't be reached. But when Madoff pleaded guilty last week to running the estimated $65-billion scheme, the attorneys challenged government claims that more than $170 billion could be considered proceeds of the crime. That amount, the attorneys said, represented the total amount deposited in Madoff's business and didn't take into account the money he paid back over the years to investors.

The government notice to seek forfeiture doesn't mean the Madoffs are going to be penniless any time soon. The court will conduct an inquiry and issue a preliminary order of forfeiture and then hear from parties who may have interests in the properties. A final forfeiture order, which may be months away, will also be needed.

One possible complication is that the yacht was apparently purchased with funds from the London office of Madoff's operation and British courts may raise a claim to some of the money, said a legal source familiar with the case who didn't want to be named.

Also yesterday, Irving Picard, the special trustee gathering funds to repay investors, said he is looking for more money in Europe. Picard, who has located about $1 billion, said in a bankruptcy court filing that there are assets in Gibraltar and plans to hire a lawyer.

Picard didn't identify the assets but they reportedly include $50 million lodged in a bank. The money was reported to have been deposited just a few weeks before Madoff was arrested on Dec. 11.


- Click here to see photos of the faces of Bernard Madoff's victims

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