Ruling in another clawback case, a bankruptcy judge affirmed the power of the trustee for Bernard Madoff's victims to bring lawsuits like the one facing the New York Mets' owners.

The decision released Thursday by Judge Burton Lifland backed the lawsuit brought by trustee Irving Picard in 2009 against the late Beverly Hills financier Stanley Chais, seeking up to $1 billion in profits Chais and his family got from Madoff and other unspecified damages. Lifland denied a motion to dismiss the case.

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Picard filed a similar lawsuit in December against Mets owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon and their partners for up to $1 billion, including more than $300 million in profits paid out by Madoff.

In both cases, Picard argues the recipients of Madoff's money should have known he was running a fraud.

"This is a clear sign to the Wilpons that they have not just a rough road ahead, but a very rough road ahead," said Anthony Sabino, a business law professor at St. John's University and bankruptcy law specialist from Mineola. "Lifland has set forth rulings . . . where he has time and again affirmed right of the trustee to bring these [clawback] cases."

"The Wilpons have virtually no chance of getting this case dismissed early," Sabino said.

A spokesman for the Wilpons and their Sterling Equities were unavailable for comment Friday. They have vehemently disputed the contention that they should have suspected Madoff was a crook.