Tables turned: Madoff letter to U.S. judge appears to be fake

NEW YORK, July 23 Wed Jul 23, 2014 7:52pm EDT

NEW YORK, July 23 (Reuters) - Bernard Madoff's massive Ponzi scheme relied on reams of fake trading documents to fool regulators for decades.

Now he may be the victim of a forgery himself, after a U.S. judge on Wednesday denied a bizarre motion supposedly filed by Madoff that claimed the U.S. intelligence agencies used "bio-electric sensors" to influence the case against him.

The letter, which was made public alongside the judge's order, appeared to be a fake. Madoff's signature did not match his typical one, and the letter contained numerous typing mistakes and a handwritten rant.

Another man was listed below Madoff's purported signature as "legal asst" Frederick Banks. The name matches that of a frequent litigant who has submitted hundreds of odd court filings featuring similar-looking handwriting.

Madoff is serving a 150-year prison sentence after pleading guilty in 2009 to running a massive Ponzi scheme, estimated to have cost investors $17 billion in principal.

The letter sought to disqualify the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan, claiming that prosecutors cannot pursue criminal penalties unless the case involves a violation of "revenue law."

U.S. Circuit Judge Denny Chin, who has continued to preside over the Madoff criminal case after becoming a federal appeals court judge, denied the motion, calling it "meritless."

His order did not indicate that he viewed the letter as fake.

Catherine O'Hagan Wolfe, the clerk of the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, where Chin is now a judge, said Chin declined to comment on the letter. She called the letter "duly filed."

"If the government is concerned or Mr. Madoff's counsel is concerned that people are submitting documents on his behalf that don't have that authority, they'll send something to the court, and the court will take action," she said.

Spokespeople for Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Madoff's former defense attorney, Ira Sorkin, also did not immediately respond.

The letter included a handwritten note that read in part, "CIA Office of Science and Technology used bio-electric sensors and sub-aural communications Voice to Skull technology to influence the court and these proceedings."

Banks has been sentenced to nearly 11-1/2 years in total by various courts following convictions starting in 2005 for crimes including fraud. A court-appointed lawyer for Banks could not immediately be reached for comment. (Reporting by Joseph Ax and Nate Raymond; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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