Mets owners out $83 million pre-Madoff trial

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The trial hasn’t even started yet, but Mets owner Fred Wilpon is already going to have to shell out as much as $83.3 million to the trustee recovering funds from the losers in Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.

That was the ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Jed S. Rakoff on Monday. The two sides will go to trial on March 19 over the additional $303 million that trustee Irving Picard is seeking. For Picard to extract that much from Wilpon’s wallet, he’ll need to prove to a jury that the defendants were “willfully blind” to the fraud.

Rakoff had previously ruled that Picard couldn’t sue the Wilpons for the full $1 billion he wanted, lowering that amount instead to the $386 million they were said to profit in the two years preceding Madoff’s arrest. Today’s $83.3 million comes out of that.

It’s unclear if the Wilpons have $83.3 million to give away at this time. They have been trying to sell minority shares of the Mets, with mixed reports of their success in the endeavor. If the trial goes poorly later this month, it figures to be difficult for them to keep the team.