Entries in New York Mets (4)


Madoff-Mets Trial: Sandy Koufax, Baseball Hall of Famer, to Testify

Jim McIsaac/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Hall of Fame pitcher Sandy Koufax has been named as a witness in a trial over whether the owners of the New York Mets, Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, knew of Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme when they withdrew approximately $300 million in profit from his firm.

The former pitcher for the Dodgers, first in Brooklyn and then Los Angeles, was a childhood friend of Fred Wilpon, a fellow investor in Madoff's firm, and is among a dozen witnesses submitted Tuesday by lawyers of the Mets co-owners, according to court documents.

Court-appointed bankruptcy trustee Irving Picard has filed over 1,000 lawsuits against former Madoff investors to reclaim billions of dollars of investments lost by the majority of other investors. He claims that the foreknowledge of investors such as Wilpon and Katz allowed them to withdraw enough money to come out way ahead of other losers. Picard's civil suit against the Mets owners, first filed in 2010, claims that the two knew or had reason to know of Madoff's illegal actions, but turned a blind eye in order to avoid their own loss and gain a "fictitious profit" of about $300 million.

Lawyers for Picard have attempted to block the testimonies of Koufax and three other witnesses claiming that the individuals have "high profile and impressive credentials," but do not sufficiently know whether the Mets owners had knowledge of Madoff's fraudulent activity.

Picard initially made efforts to force the owners to pay out as much as $1 billion, but U.S. District Court Judge Jed Rakoff narrowed the amount owed to no more than $386 million.

In a March 5 ruling, Rakoff stated that the owners must pay as much as $83 million, but a jury will decide as to another possible $303 million. Rakoff said that Picard must prove that Wilpon and Katz were "willfully blind" to Madoff's actions in the trial set to begin next week.

Arguing against Koufax's testimony, Picard's lawyers said, "The defendants clearly intend to attempt to improperly persuade the jury that they are 'good' because they associate with good people, or have done good works, and as such they cannot be guilty of anything as untoward as willful blindness to fraud."

In response, the defense's lawyers wrote that "the jury can conclude that it strains credibility to think that Mr. Wilpon would expose his oldest and closest friend to potential financial ruin -- for no benefit to Mr. Wilpon himself -- if he subjectively believed that Madoff Securities might be operating a Ponzi scheme."

Wilpon, close friend of Madoff, claimed in 2011 that he was the victim, having blindly trusted Madoff for 25 years. Madoff himself attempted to absolve the Wilpons of any blame in an interview with the New York Times.

The Madoff and Wilpon families have been close ever since Madoff's son, Mark, and Wilpon's son, Jeff, became friends in Roslyn High School on Long Island. Consequently, the Madoffs also became friendly with Wilpon's brother-in-law and business partner Saul Katz.

Bernie Madoff is currently serving a 150-year sentence for his $65 billion Ponzi scheme that he ran for 20 years.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Did Mets Owners Turn a Blind Eye to Madoff Suspicions?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The owners of the New York Mets "willfully turned a blind eye" to indications their millions of dollars in investments with their long-time friend Bernard Madoff were part of what turned out to be the biggest fraud scheme in Wall Street history, court documents released Friday allege.

The documents, a 370-plus page complaint filed by the trustee representing the victims of Madoff's now-infamous Ponzi scheme, allege that Sterling Equities, an investment firm run in part by Mets owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon, were told by an investment partner that Madoff's numbers were "too good to be true" but the company was "in too deep... to do anything but ignore the gathering clouds."

The complaint alleges that after Madoff's arrest in 2008, an employee for a Sterling Equities hedge fund, Sterling Stamos, sent an email in which the employee wrote, "I guess our CIO [Chief Investment Officer] always said it was a scam," the filing says. The complaint also claims Sterling Equities "was aware of and even enabled" Madoff's attempts to avoid regulatory scrutiny by insulating the firm from contact by other clients and their own employees.

"Attempts to negotiate with the Sterling Defendants have not resulted in a resolution of the amount owed to the Madoff Customer Fund," David Sheehan, attorney for trustee Irving Picard said in a statement today. "We believe that the Sterling Defendants received substantial funds in the hundreds of millions of dollars -- illegally through their [Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities] accounts and we seek these recoveries for ultimate distribution to BLMIS customers with valid claims."

Sterling Equities released a statement Friday calling the suit against the company "an outrageous 'strong-arm' effort."

"The conclusions in the complaint are not supported by the facts," the statement said. "The plain truth is that not one of the Sterling partners ever knew or suspected that Madoff ran a Ponzi scheme. Because the Trustee has no evidence to support his claims even after a year-and-a-half review of over 700,000 pages of documents and many, many hours of depositions, he has created a claim that we 'knew or should have known' that Madoff was a fraud.

"The Trustee also alleges that we were blinded to Madoff's crimes because our businesses 'depended' on the returns. That is complete nonsense," the statement said.

Fred Wilpon and son, Jeff Wilpon, are longtime friends of the Madoff family. Bernie Madoff's son Mark, who recently committed suicide, was close friends with Jeff Wilpon when both were growing up in Roslyn, Long Island.

Major negotiations between Sterling Equities and trustee Irving Picard over the suit ended Thursday. In a letter from the Mets owner's attorney Karen Wagner to the judge, she said both parties pushed for the release of the documents is to counter "one-sided and misleading" media reports based on apparent leaks of the original complaint against the Mets owners.

"These leaks resulted in a media storm to which we were forced to respond," Wagner wrote Thursday. "The defendants have strong objection to the heated rhetoric and unfounded conclusions in the complaint."

On Dec. 7, 2010, Picard filed suit against Sterling Equities because the company was deemed a "net winner" in Madoff's multi-billion-dollar investment scam. According to the initial filing, the Wilpons, who own a controlling stake in the team, withdrew $48 million more from their Madoff accounts than they invested.

Last week, the Wilpons announced economic "uncertainty" was forcing the team to consider selling a 25 percent interest National League Franchise, which value was estimated in 2010 at $858 million.

Bernie Madoff was arrested Dec. 11, 2008 at his Manhattan home by federal agents, charged with running the largest fraud in Wall Street history. He is now serving a 150-year sentence for his $65 billion Ponzi scheme he ran for 20 years.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Madoff Woes Force Mets Owners To Seek Buyer

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The owners of the New York Mets, who are being sued for millions by victims of Ponzi schemer Bernie Madoff, have announced that economic "uncertainty" is forcing them to consider selling a 25 percent interest in the team.

Fred and Jeff Wilpon, who were both investors with Bernie Madoff and friends with the Madoff family, said on a conference call with reporters Friday that they were looking to sell a 20 to 25 percent minority stake in the baseball franchise, which had an estimated worth of $858 million in 2010.

"To address the air of uncertainty created by this lawsuit," said the Wilpons in a letter to Mets fans published Friday, "and to provide additional assurance that the New York Mets will continue to have the necessary resources to fully compete and win, we are looking at a number of potential options including the addition of one or more strategic partners."

On Dec. 7, 2010, the trustee representing Madoff victims filed suit against Sterling Equities, the Wilpons' investment firm, because the company was deemed a "net winner" in Madoff's multi-billion-dollar investment scam. According to trustee Irving Picard's filing, the Wilpons withdrew $48 million more from their Madoff accounts than they invested.

The Madoffs and the Wilpons have been friends for years. Bernie Madoff's son Mark, who recently committed suicide, was friends with Jeff Wilpon when both were growing up in Roslyn, Long Island.

The Wilpons and financial advisor Steve Greenberg, managing director of Allen & Company, said that they were exploring many different options, including looking for strategic partners and looking at various banks and insurance companies. They said they had not received any pressure from Major League Baseball to pursue a new partner because of the Madoff lawsuit.

"The Mets have been a major part of our families for more than 30 years and that is not going to change," said the Wilpons in their letter to fans.

On the conference call, the Wilpons and Greenberg declined to discuss any details of the lawsuit or contingent liabilities for a potential buyer.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Three Brokers Disciplined for Mishandling Money of Former MLB Players

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(NEWARK, NJ) – The New Jersey Attorney General announced Tuesday that three brokers have been disciplined for bad financial deals with three former Major League Baseball players who had been clients.

“Clients trusted these industry professionals with their hard-earned savings, and that trust was broken,” said Attorney General Paula T. Dow. “Professional athletes, working toward a financially secure future upon retirement, became victims to those seeking to enrich themselves.”

Two of the brokers, Stephen Elliot Hill and Steven Kolinsky, co-owners of Kolinsky-Hill Financial Group, had their brokers licenses suspended. According to a press release, Hill misappropriated nearly $1.7 million of his clients’ money.

Florida broker Roy Glassberg was sanctioned for part in the deal. He failed to disclose that the funds that were misappropriated by Hill benefited his company.

The names of the former baseball players affected by the deals have not been released. However, Sports Illustrated reported that former New York Mets outfielder Cliff Floyd is among those who were stung financially.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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