NEW YORK — Prosecutors said Thursday that investigators found 100 signed checks worth $173 million in Bernard 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.
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 wants to keep his assets away from burned investors.
In the filing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Litt said Madoff cannot 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 will now decide whether Madoff should be sent to jail or remain free on bail in his luxury Upper East Side penthouse.
Defense lawyers say he is not a risk to flee or a danger to community, and therefore should remain free on bail.
Investigators previously have said that Madoff had planned on distributing more than $200 million to his closest friends and family after he realized his scheme had unraveled. He was also accused of sending more than $1 million worth of jewelry to friends and family over the holidays, prompting prosecutors to ask a judge to revoke his bail.
Prosecutors believe that he prevents a "grave" economic harm to the community because of the wide range of his alleged fraud, and they cited the attempt to distribute some of his wealth in the past month as proof of how he can hurt his many victims.
"The only thing that prevented the defendant from executing his plan to dissipate those assets was his arrest by the FBI on Dec. 11," prosecutors argued.
The letter was a response to a letter defense lawyers for Madoff had submitted to Magistrate Judge Ronald L. Ellis on Wednesday.
The defense lawyers had noted that Madoff and his wife had offered to give up their assets, including four properties in Manhattan, Montauk, N.Y., Palm Beach, Fla. and Antibes, France along with four boats and three cars. The U.S. properties alone were estimated to be worth more than $19 million.
"Mr. Madoff's conduct ... is not the conduct of a man who is unwilling to face justice in this matter," the lawyers wrote, noting that Madoff encouraged his sons at the outset to tell the authorities of the exact nature of his fraud and that he planned to turn himself in.
Litt wrote that Madoff's "effort to paint his pre-arrest actions in heroic terms should be viewed with great skepticism."