Madoff should be jailed - U.S.

Prosecution in Ponzi case say that Madoff violated bail by sending valuables to relatives.

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By Aaron Smith, CNNMoney.com staff writer

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NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Prosecutors urged a federal judge Wednesday to put alleged Ponzi scammer Bernard Madoff behind bars for trying to mail more than $1 million worth of valuable items to family members.

The U.S. Department of Justice accused Madoff, who is currently under house arrest in Manhattan, of sending five packages "containing valuables to relatives and others."

In a written filing filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, prosecutors accused Madoff of sending one package with "approximately 13 watches, one diamond necklace, an emerald ring, and two sets of cufflinks" with a total value that "could exceed $1 million."

Prosecutors said that two other packages "containing a diamond bracelet, a gold watch, a diamond Cartier watch, a diamond Tiffany watch, four diamond brooches, a jade necklace, and other assorted jewelry -- also were sent to relatives."

Those packages were apprehended by law enforcement, said prosecutors. Sources close to the case told CNN that several of the packages were sent to his sons, who contacted their attorney and turned the valuables over to the government.

The prosecution said an additional two packages with "contents unknown" were sent to Madoff's brother and "an unidentified couple in Florida."

Prosecutors said the actions violate the terms of Madoff's house arrest, and show that "current bail conditions are insufficient to assure the safety of the community from the defendant" because he might try to "dissipate" assets from his three homes in the United States and his home in France.

"The need for detention in this case is clear," the prosecution wrote, calling the defendant a flight risk who "has admitted to having perpetrated one of the largest frauds in history," a Ponzi scheme with "losses in the tens of billions of dollars."

In a Ponzi scheme, money from new investors is used to pay off early investors, to create an appearance of legitimate returns.

Later Tuesday, defense attorneys filed court papers arguing that Madoff's current bail conditions are sufficient and that detention is not necessary.

The document said Madoff "simply did not realize" that the order prohibiting him from transferring assets pertained to the "sentimental personal items" he had mailed.

Moreover, some of the items were sent by Madoff's wife, who is not subject to the same conditions as Madoff is, according to the defense.

The watches that Madoff mailed to his sons and other relatives were packaged as gifts and "the value of these items was purely sentimental," according to the document.

Finally, the defense argued, Madoff sent the watches "knowing that, due to the sudden change in his circumstances, he would never have an occasion to wear these watches again."

$10 million bail

Prosecutors said that Madoff's alleged attempts to send away valuable items could prevent victims from reclaiming losses.

Madoff's $10 million bail was secured by properties owned by him and his wife, including the apartment in which he's spending his 24-hour house arrest, and a Palm Beach estate.

The alleged $50 billion investment scam sent shock waves through an already-fragile financial system, stretching from hedge funds and well-heeled investors on Wall Street, to Florida and Europe. Alleged victims include Spain's Banco Santander (STD) and Britain-based HSBC (HBC), as well as director Steven Spielberg and actor Kevin Bacon.

The House Financial Services subcommittee held a hearing Monday, laying the blame on the Securities and Exchange Commission for allowing the alleged scam to carry on undetected for decades.

Burned investors could have a tough time reclaiming their money. Efforts have uncovered $29 million so far from Madoff's firm, a paltry sum compared to the alleged take. But in congressional testimony on Monday, Stephen Harbeck, president of the Securities Investor Protection Corp., an agency that helps investors in failed brokerage firms, said an additional $830 million in assets has been identified.

If convicted, Madoff could spend up to 20 years in prison and face a $5 million fine. To top of page

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