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Judge hinders Madoff trustee's claims against Mets owners

Federal judge dismisses bulk of trustee's claims against owners of baseball team

Tuesday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff tossed out nine of the 11 claims of a lawsuit filed by Bernard Madoff trustee Irving Picard against the owners of the New York Mets baseball team, Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz.

Picard claimed the Mets owners were “willfully blind” to the scheme and demanded the return of about $1 billion. Wilpon and Katz denied any misconduct or suspicions about the Ponzi scheme at the time.

The decision is a partial victory for the Mets owners, though the judge rejected their request to dismiss the entire lawsuit. A statement from Sterling Equities Associates, the investment firm run by Wilpon and Katz, said they were “pleased that the court today dismissed nine of the 11 counts in the Trustee’s complaint.”

For Picard, the ruling makes his attempts to be repaid increasingly difficult. He must meet a high standard of proof and would only be able to take back money withdrawn in the last two years of the fraud under federal bankruptcy law, according to the judge.

As the lawsuit continues, Judge Rakoff has ordered both parties to come to court Wednesday to plan a schedule. A trial date was set for March.

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