NEW YORK — Prosecutors said Thursday that investigators found 100 signed checks worth $173 million in Bernard L. Madoff's office desk that he was ready to send out to his closest family and friends at the time of his arrest last month in what is alleged to be the largest financial fraud in history.
The detail was provided in a court filing Thursday as prosecutors argued that Madoff should have his bail revoked and be sent to jail. They said the checks were further evidence that he wanted to keep his assets away from burned investors.
In the filing, Assistant U.S. Atty. Marc Litt said Madoff couldn't be trusted because he had long engaged in 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."
The judge was expected to rule today or Monday whether Madoff should be sent to jail or remain free on bail, confined to his Upper East Side penthouse with an electronic ankle bracelet and under 24-hour guard.
Defense lawyers say bail should not be revoked because he is not a flight risk or a danger to the community.
The court developments came as regulators in Britain opened an investigation into the British business operations of Madoff, raising the prospect that he could face charges there. The fraud office, which is cooperating with its U.S. counterparts, said its investigation would focus on British victims and "any criminal offenses that might have been committed in the U.K."
Madoff delivered impressive returns to investors for decades before, authorities say, he told his sons that it was "all just one big lie" and "basically, a giant Ponzi scheme." He's accused of blowing more than $50 billion, paying early investors with proceeds from those who entered his investment scheme later.
Investigators previously have said that Madoff had planned on distributing $200 million to $300 million to his closest friends and family after he realized his scheme had unraveled. The $173 million in checks appears to represent part of that $200 million to $300 million.
He was also accused of sending more than $1 million worth of jewelry and accessories as gifts to friends and family over the holidays, prompting prosecutors to ask a judge to revoke his bail.
Madoff's lawyer, Ira Sorkin, declined to comment Thursday.