(CN) – A federal magistrate judge ruled Monday that Bernard L. Madoff can remain free on bail, saying prosecutors failed to prove the alleged orchestrator of a $50 billion Ponzi scheme was a flight risk or a security risk.
Acting U.S. Attorney Lev Dassin asked U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis to revoke Madoff’s $10 million bail, saying the alleged Ponzi artist had sent more than $1 million in jewels to friends and family members from his home confinement, in defiance of court orders.
Dassin said Madoff’s “blatant disregard of a court order” warrants detention.
“For the government’s detention application to succeed,” Judge Ellis wrote, “the court would have to find that the Government has met its burden of showing – by clear and convincing evidence, that no condition or combination of conditions will reasonably assure the safety of any other person and the community; or by a preponderance of the evidence, that there is no condition or combination of conditions that would reasonably assure the ‘presence of the defendant at trial if released.’
“The court finds that the government has failed to meet its burden as to either ground,” the ruling states.
The government built its case for detention on the “unprecedented” nature of Madoff’s alleged crimes.
“The defendant has admitted to perpetrating one of the largest, if not the largest, Ponzi schemes in history – a scheme that required the defendant to lie routinely to thousands of people and a scheme which has caused extraordinary damage to individuals, families, and institutions all over the world,” Dassin argued.
“Second, the weight of the evidence against the defendant is strong and he has admitted his crimes to numerous witnesses, including FBI agents.
“Third, the acts that he has admitted to committing, including his fraudulent scheme and his blatant disregard of a court order following his arrest and imposition of stringent bail conditions, the defendant has shown that he cannot be relied upon to follow the court’s orders. Defendant’s effort to paint his pre-arrest actions in heroic terms should be viewed with great skepticism. What the defendant failed to highlight for the court in his rendition of events is the fact that, prior to his arrest, he announced his attention to transfer $200-$300 million of the remaining investors’ assets to selected family, friends and employees.
“In fact, when the defendant’s office desk was searched, investigators found approximately 100 signed checks totaling more than approximately $173 million, ready to be sent out. The only thing that prevented the defendant from executing his plan to dissipate those assets was his arrest by the FBI on December 11.”
The government said detention was the only way to “reasonably … assure the presence of the defendant and the safety of the community.”
Madoff insisted that he never violated the conditions of his bail, and that the holiday mailings were an innocent mistake.
Monday’s ruling allows Madoff to stay in his luxury Manhattan apartment under electronic and security surveillance.
Ellis reiterated the ban on asset transfers and ordered Madoff to provide the government with a list of all “valuable portable items” in his apartment.