- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 14, 2009

NEW YORK (AP) - A federal bankruptcy judge signed off Tuesday on a plan to raise tens of thousands of dollars for victims of the Bernard Madoff fraud by auctioning off pricey New York Mets season tickets owned by the disgraced financier’s investment firm.

Before signing an order allowing a court-appointed trustee to sell the tickets at the Mets’ sparkling new ballpark to the highest Internet bidder, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Burton Lifland playfully suggested that the team needed to rebound from its mediocre start to help the cause.

“Suppose the trustee would wait a couple of months to see if the Mets do well?” Burton quipped at a brief hearing in a lower Manhattan courthouse.

Madoff, 70, pleaded guilty last month to charges that his investment advisory service actually was a massive Ponzi scheme that paid longtime clients with money from new ones. He is jailed, awaiting a June sentencing for charges that carry a sentence of up to 150 years in prison.

The trustee has been liquidating Madoff’s business assets to help cover thousands of claims filed by burned investors.

The assets include bank accounts, securities and technology so far valued at around $1 billion. But none of the business holdings have gotten more attention than the 8th row seats at Citi Field.

The tickets had already been put up for sale for single games through this weekend while the plan to dump the entire season ticket package was worked out. One fan paid $7,500 for the $525 seats to take his son to watch the Mets lose Monday’s home opener and drop to 3-4 on the season.

The block of tickets for the remaining home games starting April 24 _ valued at roughly $60,000 _ will be put up for a one-week auction on eBay starting later this week. Bids will begin at $30,000.

The winning bidder will get access to an exclusive restaurant located behind home plate, a parking pass and other perks.

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