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United States v. Madoff

January 12, 2009

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
v.
BERNARD L. MADOFF, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ronald L. Ellis, United States Magistrate Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Before the Court is a motion by the Government to detain Defendant Bernard L. Madoff pending trial on the grounds that: 1) the facts in this case present a clear risk of flight and obstruction of justice and 2) neither the current conditions of release, nor any other conditions that could be imposed, are sufficient to protect the safety of the community. The Government argues that Madoff's recent transfers of valuable items to third parties constitutes a change in circumstances that render his current bail conditions, and any other bail conditions that might subsequently be imposed, insufficient to insure against risk of flight and danger to the community. Because the Government has failed to meet its legal burden, the motion is DENIED. The Court finds, however, that the following additional conditions shall be imposed to address the identified concerns:

(1) The restrictions set forth in the preliminary injunction entered on December 18, 2008, in the civil case brought by the SEC before District Judge Louis L. Stanton, including restrictions on transfer of all property whatsoever, wherever located, in the possession or under the control of Madoff, SHALL be incorporated into the current bail conditions;

(2) The restrictions set forth in the voluntary restraint agreement signed by Mrs. Madoff on December 26, 2008, SHALL be incorporated into the current bail conditions; and

(3) Madoff SHALL compile an inventory of all valuable portable items in his Manhattan home. In addition to providing this inventory to the Government, Casale Associates, or another security company approved by the Government, SHALL check the inventory once every two weeks. Casale Associates, or another security company approved by the Government, SHALL search all outgoing physical mail to ensure that no property has been transferred. The Government and Madoff shall agree on a threshold value for inventory items within one week of this Order.

II. BACKGROUND

On December 11, 2008, the Government initiated the instant criminal case via a Complaint charging Madoff with one count of securities fraud in violation of 15 U.S.C. §§ 78j(b), 78ff; 17 C.F.R. § 240.10b-5. Upon his arrest, Madoff was interviewed by Pretrial Services, which did not recommend pretrial detention. (Defendant's Memorandum in Opposition ("Def. Opp."), Jan. 8, 2009, at 1-2.) At presentment, the Government did not seek detention, and the Parties jointly proposed a set of bail conditions, so ordered by the Honorable Douglas F. Eaton on December 11, 2008.*fn1 (Id.) After a series of amendments,*fn2 which added conditions to bail or adjusted dates by which certain conditions were to be met, the bail conditions currently in effect were entered on December 19, 2008.*fn3 They are:

(1) a $10 million personal recognizance bond secured by Madoff's Manhattan apartment, and Madoff's wife's properties in Montauk, New York, and Palm Beach, Florida, and co-signed by two financially responsible persons, Madoff's wife and brother;

(2) the filing of confessions of judgment with respect to Madoff's Manhattan apartment and his wife's properties in Montauk, New York, and Palm Beach, Florida;

(3) other than for scheduled court appearances, Madoff is subject to home detention at his Manhattan apartment, 24 hours per day, with electronic monitoring;

(4) Madoff employs, at his wife's expense, a security firm acceptable to the Government, to provide the following services to prevent harm or flight:

(a) the security firm provides round-the-clock monitoring at Madoff's building, 24 hours per day, including video monitoring of Madoff's apartment doors, and communications devices and services permitting it to send a direct signal from an observation post to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the event of the appearance of harm or flight;

(b) the security firm will provide additional guards available on request if necessary to prevent harm or flight;

(5) Madoff and his wife have surrendered their passports. (See Docket No. 10.)

In a related civil proceeding before The Honorable Louis L. Stanton brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC") against Madoff and Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC, the Parties entered into a preliminary injunction on December 18, 2008, pursuant to which Madoff was explicitly enjoined from transferring any assets belonging to him or his company. (Order on Consent Imposing Preliminary Injunction, Freezing Assets and Granting Other Relief Against Defendants, Dec. 18, 2008, SEC v. Madoff, et al., No. 08 Civ. 10791 (LLS) (Docket No. 8).) This injunction requires Madoff to "prevent any withdrawal, transfer, pledge, encumbrance, assignment, dissipation, concealment or other disposal of any assets, funds, or other property (including money, real or personal property, securities, commodities, choses in action or other property of any kind whatsoever) of, held by or under the direct or indirect control of, Defendant . . . ." (Id. at 3.) This preliminary injunction was not a condition of bail, nor was it incorporated into Madoff's conditions of release on bail.

Subsequently, on or around December 24, 2008, Madoff and his wife mailed packages to family and to friends. The contents of these packages have been characterized by Madoff as "gifts" and items of "sentimental value."*fn4 (Def. Opp. at 3-4.) Upon learning of these transfers, the Government sought a hearing to request that Madoff be detained pending trial. According to the Government, the transfers at issue contained personal property that was clearly under Madoff's control, and the value of the items may exceed $1 million.*fn5 The Government argues that a handwritten note contained in one package and authored by Madoff presents further proof that these items were in Madoff's possession and control. (Transcript of January 5, 2009, Hearing ("Tr.") at 4-5.) The Government concludes that these actions, which it describes as the dissipation of personal assets, violated the preliminary injunction in place in the civil case against Madoff, and constitute an obstruction of justice cognizable under 18 U.S.C. § 3142. (Id. at 30 ("Here the obstruction that we see is the inability to get restitution and forfeiture proceedings to victims . . . .").) Building on this argument, the Government asserts that this type of economic harm represents a danger to the community as contemplated by § 3142 of the Bail Reform Act.

The Government further maintains that Madoff's violation of the preliminary injunction has heightened significance because it occurred within one week of the issuance of the injunction and clearly indicates his lack of respect for the limits put in place by the Court. (Tr. at 4-5.) The Government concludes that the continued pretrial release of Madoff poses a clear risk of flight and obstruction of justice, as well as a danger to the safety of the community, which includes victims of Madoff's alleged fraud.

Madoff argues that he has not violated the conditions of his bail. He admits that personal items, several of which belonged to his wife, who is not a party to either the criminal or civil case against him, were mailed to some family members and one couple -- friends of Madoff and his wife. Madoff asserts that these items were holiday gifts and heirloom pieces of sentimental value, and were sent without an intent to violate any court order. Madoff's counsel acknowledges that it was a mistake, and that as soon as the impropriety of the action became known to Madoff, he began working to get the items back. (Id. at 12-14.) Moreover, Mrs. Madoff has now voluntarily agreed to a freeze on her assets, including her jewelry. (Id. at 11.)

Following a hearing on the Government's application, the Parties submitted briefs elaborating on their respective positions. While apparently conceding that there has been no violation of the specific conditions of bail in the instant case,*fn6 the Government reiterates that no bail conditions can be set that adequately address the flight risk or potential harm to the community. The Government articulates this harm as the dissipation of assets that will arguably become part of Madoff's restitution debt for victim recovery. (Gov. Mem. at 5-6.) The Government argues it is not practical to monitor all of Madoff's assets to prevent further dissemination contravening the civil case's preliminary injunction. (Id.) Thus, it concludes that detention is necessary because there are no conditions of release that can assure the safety of the community. Madoff counters that most of the items have been recovered, and that he is in the process of recovering the outstanding items at this time. (Def. Opp. at 4.) He argues that the Government failed to make the threshold showing to allow for a ...


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