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No coat as Madoff's wife quits penthouse

FEDERAL marshals seized disgraced financier Bernard Madoff's US$7 million Manhattan penthouse on Thursday and forced his wife to move out and leave her possessions behind, including a fur coat she had asked to take with her.

Proceeds from a sale of the property and its contents could be used to help reimburse those who lost billions of dollars investing with Madoff before he confessed to running a Ponzi scheme.

United States Marshal Joseph Guccione said the marshals arrived at the property at noon with a court order permitting them to take custody of the apartment and to make anyone living there move out. Guccione said Madoff's wife Ruth had been advised in advance of the marshals' plans and was leaving the residence and surrendering all personal property.

"She will be leaving," he said at midday. "Restitution for the victims is the government's top priority."

Typically, the US Marshals Service changes all locks and secures a property when it seizes a location.

By about 1pm, 67-year-old Ruth Madoff had left. It was not immediately clear where she went to live.

She first argued with marshals who came to the apartment and asked to stay, then asked if she could take a fur coat with her, a federal official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said. She walked out of the apartment carrying just a straw bag after she was told she couldn't take her coat, the official said.

"This cheap effort to smear Ruth Madoff is meritless -- with a little over two days to pack up her entire life of 68 years and find a new place to live, Ruth still managed to move out right on time, in an orderly fashion and in total compliance with her court approved agreement," said her lawyer, Peter Chavkin. "And it was she who forfeited the furs last Friday as the publicly filed stipulation states. These anonymous attacks on her should stop."

On Monday, 71-year-old Bernard Madoff was sentenced to 150 years in prison. He pleaded guilty in March to charges that his business was a Ponzi scheme that wiped out thousands of investors and ruined charities.


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