Ruth Madoff wants to keep her assets - talk about chutzpah!

A $7 million penthouse on Manhattan's Upper East Side, some $45 million in municipal bonds, and $17 million at Wachovia Bank. These are the assets Ruth Madoff, wife to $50 billion Ponzi scheme fraudster Bernard Madoff, wants to keep. Sure, if I were in her place, I'd love to keep such assets too.

This is outrageous. How are any of the assets -- the couple's assets that is -- "unrelated" to the $50 billion fraud? Did he keep a book where he kept track of what assets he (they) bought with what money? This apartment with Elie Weisel foundation's money, this penthouse with my honest and hard-earned salary? I mean, we all know how these things work -- put the apartment in your wife's name so that creditors (and in this case prosecutors) won't be able to touch it. But what if the wife doesn't work? What if there's no way she's ever made that much money on her own to have such assets? Or, as in this case, what if she worked with her husband, knowingly helping or not?

It's very disconcerting to hear then that a "Manhattan federal Judge Louis Stanton's order essentially allowed the government to restrain Ruth Madoff's assets from sale or transfer, but acknowledged that they can't be seized unless prosecutors link them to crimes."

Can prosecutors link her to her husband's fraud?

Well, for starters, she withdrew $15.5 million shortly before her husband was arrested; $10 million on the eve of his arrest. This will definitely not play in her favor. Also, investigators looking at what role she played have found that, according to the Wall Street Journal sources, she had reconciled the firm's bank accounts. While far from a smoking gun, this certainly casts some suspicions her way.

Another question is whether the assets are really "unrelated" to Madoff's fraud, or whether they are actually the fruits of his crime. While I'm sure no one has much doubt about this issue, it may be more difficult to prove given the complicated nature of following accounting trails and the different sets of books.

For now, attorneys have found about $950 million in cash and securities the couple has. The claims by alleged victims so far total about $1 billion. For now Madoff has agreed to give up rights to his business, along with some other assets, but it would be a shame if some of what was found is not available to help pay the claims. I'm sure many will be more than angry if Mrs. Madoff is allowed to keep "her" assets.
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