Mets Owners Owe $83M in Madoff Case
Trustee Irving Picard will get his day in court
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 5, 2012 4:58 PM CST
In this Oct. 29, 2010, file photo, New York Mets owner Fred Wilpon, left, and COO Jeff Wilpon, listen to a question from the media during a baseball news conference in New York.   (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek, File)

(Newser) – Bernie Madoff's historic Ponzi scheme is finally dragging the New York Mets to court. A judge ruled today that the team's owners must return up to $83 million withdrawn from Madoff's firm and go to trial over whether they ignored warning signs of the investment scam, MarketWatch reports. Irving Picard, the trustee appointed to recoup funds for the Ponzi scheme's victims, claims the Mets owners were "willfully blind" to Madoff's fraud.

According to Picard, the cash-strapped team continuously withdrew money from Madoff's firm, relying on unrealistic 10%-to-12% returns to handle weekly "cash crunches." But team owners Saul Katz and Fred Wilpon say they knew nothing of the scam and deposited money regularly. Either way, the judge in the case seems unimpressed by Picard's ability to win: "Conclusions are no substitute for facts. ... Nevertheless, there remains a residue of disputed factual assertions from which a jury could infer either good or bad faith."