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November 16, 2009

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Brisk offers for Madoff items

ITEMS that used to belong to fallen financier Bernard Madoff and his wife, Ruth, fetched several times their estimated values at auction on Saturday for a total of about US$1 million, twice as much as the auctioneers had hoped for.

Madoff's blue satin New York Mets baseball jacket with his surname stitched on the back, valued at up to US$720, sold for US$14,500 at the auction. The jacket carries its own special meaning: Team owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz were among the victims of Madoff's fraud.

Madoff's Hofstra College ring, estimated at US$360, went for US$6,000.

Excitement filled a Manhattan hotel ballroom in New York as people participating in the auction, run by Pflugerville, Texas-based Gaston & Sheehan, bid for items they could afford without being as rich as Madoff was.

Charlie Blumenkehl raised his hand for a set of Madoff's golf irons, clinching them for US$3,600, against a US$350-to-US$400 estimate.

"I just wanted Bernie's name on the clubs," the New Jersey fund manager said with a laugh, adding, "but I don't want his vibes to be transmitted - my fund is doing better than his."

Two pairs of Ruth Madoff's diamond dangle earrings sold for US$70,000 each, against a pre-sale estimate of no more than US$9,800 and US$21,400. But the most highly prized item in the sale, one of Bernard Madoff's 17 Rolex watches, fetched only US$65,000, paid by an unknown buyer. The watch was valued between US$75,000 and US$85,000.

The auction was organized by the United States Marshals Service, which seized the couple's properties - a penthouse on Manhattan's Upper East Side and houses in Montauk, New York, and Palm Beach, Florida.

Inside the homes were some of the items on the block on Saturday, ordered forfeited as part of Madoff's sentencing after he pleaded guilty in a multibillion-dollar fraud that burned thousands of investors. Proceeds from the auction will be divided among his victims.

The items on auction ranged from dishes, pens and stationery to decoy ducks, furs and the Rolex.


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