By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK, Dec 22 (Reuters) - Victims of Bernard Madoff's massive Ponzi scheme will get a fresh $322 million payout if a U.S. judge approves the request by the trustee liquidating the convicted fraudster's firm, bringing the recovery total to more than $7 billion.
The trustee, Irving Picard, said on Monday he would seek permission from a U.S. bankruptcy judge in New York to begin the fifth interim distribution of payments, which would average $299,900 and range from just under $400 to more than $60 million.
The announcement came five weeks after Picard said he had reached three settlements with various defendants, totaling more than $642 million.
All told, Picard has recouped about $10.5 billion, roughly 60 percent of the $17.5 billion of principal he estimated was lost by Madoff customers in the Ponzi scheme, which was revealed in December 2008.
Picard has allowed 2,547 claims related to 2,213 accounts that victims held at Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC. Once the fifth interim distribution is complete, he said, 1,154 accounts will be fully satisfied.
A court hearing to consider approving the payout has been scheduled for Jan. 15.
Madoff, 76, is serving a 150-year prison term after pleading guilty in March 2009.
Five former Madoff employees were sentenced to prison terms of two to 10 years earlier this month, following their conviction in March of fraud and other charges for helping Madoff conceal his fraud for decades.
Fifteen people, including Madoff himself, have been convicted at trial or pleaded guilty in connection with the Ponzi scheme. (Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Richard Chang)
The Morning Email helps you start your workday with everything you need to know: breaking news, entertainment and a dash of fun. Learn more