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U.S. judge approves sale of Madoff's Mets tickets

NEW YORK, April 14 (Reuters) - Bernard Madoff’s New York Mets baseball season tickets may be sold in an online auction, a judge ruled on Tuesday, allowing the proceeds to go toward reimbursing the jailed swindler’s defrauded customers.

A lawyer for the court-appointed trustee liquidating Madoff’s business told the judge in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Manhattan that the tickets needed to be sold as quickly as possible because the Mets’ played their first home regular season game at the new Citi Field stadium on Monday.

In a light-hearted exchange, Judge Burton Lifland told lawyer Amy Vanderwal: “The market is at the bottom ... might it be best to speculatively hold on to see how well the Mets do?”

But Vanderwal replied, “there is also the possibility they could do worse.”

The once-respected money manager and former chairman of the Nasdaq stock market was a fan of the Mets, which play in the New York City borough of Queens, where Madoff grew up.

Madoff’s tickets were for two seats in the second row behind home plate in the Delta Club Platinum section at the new Citi Field. They had a face value of about $80,191, or $295 to $695 per single ticket.

Trustee Irving Picard has worked out a deal with the Mets to exchange Madoff’s seats for two less expensive ones a few sections over and a few rows back with a face value of $60,750.

The trustee would get about $20,000 for the difference between the platinum and gold seats, Vanderwal said in court.

Madoff's tickets for Monday night's first Mets home game of the season against the San Diego Padres were sold for $7,500 on eBay EBAY.O on Sunday. The Mets lost 6-5.

His tickets for the rest of the season will now be made available for bidding.

Madoff pleaded guilty on March 12 to running the biggest investment fraud in Wall Street’s history, which prosecutors have said bilked investors out of as much as $65 billion. He is in jail and could be sent to prison for the rest of his life when sentenced in June. (Reporting by Grant McCool; Editing by Derek Caney)