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Man who made $5 billion off Madoff fraud found in pool, dies

UPDATED at 1:05 p.m. with autopsy report

Jeffrey Picower, 67, an investor who was accused of making more than $5 billion off Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme fraud, died after his wife found him at the bottom of their Palm Beach mansion pool on Sunday.

Picower was briefly revived but then died a short time later at a nearby hospital.

Picower's lawyer said the autopsy (performed pretty quickly, I note) showed Picower died of a "massive heart attack."

Some Madoff victims believe Picower was Madoff's biggest beneficiary. Irving Picard, the man put in charge of recovering as much investor money as possible, is requiring investors to give back their bogus profits from Madoff's fraud.

Many investors pulled more money out of Madoff's funds than they put in. In an honest fund, that's what you're meant to do. But Madoff wasn't running an honest fund. In a Ponzi scheme, the first investors are paid bogus returns that are taken from later investors. So people like Picower may have literally been taking other peoples' money.

Picower, with an estimated worth of $1 billion, was No. 371 on Forbes' most recent list of the 400 richest Americans.

Here's a good piece on Picower from ProPublica from June. Click here to read it.

Here's an excerpt from the ProPublica piece. Read to the end to see a familiar name from the past:

"In 1989, Picower paid an undisclosed settlement over a questionable tax shelter he helped set up years earlier for a client. In 1990, it was Picower's turn to recover money – from a settlement involving infamous insider trader Ivan Boesky. Picower had been one of his investors."

Boesky, you may remember, was the criminal face of Wall Street's greed-is-good 1980s. The corporate raider got caught trading on insider information and went to jail, but not before singing to the SEC about the Street's crooked practices.

Back where I come from, there's a saying: You lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

-- Frank Ahrens
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By Frank Ahrens  |  October 26, 2009; 1:05 PM ET
Categories:  The Ticker  | Tags: Bernie Madoff, Ivan Boesky, Jeffrey Picower  
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