London, Dec 18 (ANI): Bernie Madoff's widow is paying back more than 7.2 billion dollars of the missing money to the victims of the Wall Street swindler, it has emerged.
The settlement is the largest forfeiture in U.S. history and will recover more than one-third of the cash stolen by the crooked financier, reports the Daily Mail.
US Attorney Preet Bharaba announced that the seized billions would be distributed "as fast as humanly possible."
Although 72-year-old Madoff squandered about 65billion dollars on paper, the actual cash losses amounted to about 20billion dollars.
The windfall was recovered from the estate of philanthropist Jeffry Picower, who drowned after having a heart attack in the swimming pool of his beachfront Palm Beach, Florida mansion in October, 2009.
Picower, who was 67 when he died, was the largest single beneficiary of Madoff's Ponzi scheme.
The 7.2billion dollars figure is the estimated amount of bogus profits he drew from his Madoff accounts in the two decades since he first invested with the company.
The money was supposedly made from stock trades, but investigators maintain it was simply stolen from other investors.
For years, Madoff simply used money from new investors to pay dividends to his old clients.
But the fraud imploded when the financial crisis hit and he is now serving a 150-year prison sentence.
Picower's lawyers insisted he knew nothing about the monstrous deception.
But in court papers filed, the trustee argued that the billionaire tycoon must have known that his returns were "implausibly high."
After he died, Picower's revealed he had earmarked most of his fortune for charity, but his widow Barbara said she wanted to return some of the money to the fraud victims through a "fair and generous settlement."
More than 1,600 people have filed claims saying they lost money, although many have been rejected because they still profited from the fraud.
About 2,363 claims have been approved so far, totaling about 5.9billion dollars. (ANI)