PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Filing an amended lawsuit against Mets owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz on Friday, the trustee seeking to recover funds from Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme is now seeking a total of more than $1 billion.
According to a press release Friday from Irving Picard, the amended complaint states that the trustee seeks more than $700 million in alleged fraudulent transfers of principal received from Madoff to Mets parent company Sterling Equities, as well as the $300 million in "fictitious profits" cited in the original complaint.
"The amended complaint sheds more light on the deep dependency of the Sterling business organization on the continuation of the Madoff fraud and certain knowledge of indicia of fraud by the Sterling partners," David Sheehan, counsel to the trustee and a partner at Baker & Hostetler LLP, the court-appointed counsel for the Trustee, said in a statement.
The Mets responded with their own statement, via Wilpon and Katz: "The amended complaint is the latest chapter in the work of fiction created by the Trustee. We will pursue a vigorous legal defense that will set the record straight and vindicate us."
In addition to detailing "a multi-million dollar interest- and cost-free bridge loan from Madoff to Sterling in connection with its purchase of the broadcast rights for the New York Mets from Cablevision," the amended lawsuit cites Sterling's restructuring of more than $500 million in debt in a process that, according to Picard's release, "attempted to circumvent any potential recovery action initiated by the Trustee."
Picard's lawsuit alleges that the Mets not only profited from Madoff's Ponzi scheme, but that they should have been aware of Madoff's fraud. If found liable, the Wilpons could be forced to pay more than $1 billion.
"The restructuring demonstrates both Sterling's and the Lender Banks' serious concerns regarding potential recoveries by the Trustee, and supports the Trustee's contention that the Sterling Defendants were inextricably bound to the Madoff fraud," another counsel, Fernando A. Bohorquez, Jr., said in the same statement.
Last month, Madoff said in an interview with The New York Times that the Wilpons and Katz "knew nothing" of his scheme, and the Wilpons have adamantly denied ever having any knowledge of Madoff's fraudulent activities.
The Mets have already received at least one loan from Major League Baseball, and are seeking suitors to purchase a minority stake in the team. Wilpon said early last month that he is not exploring the possibility of selling a controlling share of the club.