EXPIRED: 10/25/09 – Jeffry Picower, 67, was a philanthropist accused of profiting more than $7 billion from the Ponzi schemes of Bernie Madoff. He was found at the bottom of his pool at his $33 million Palm Beach, Florida mansion today, discovered by his wife and housekeeper.

Picower suffered from Parkinson’s disease and had heart-related issues and although there were many reasons why people might want to retaliate against him, his body showed no visible injuries. He was wearing swimming trunks, so although foul-play hasn’t been ruled out, it’s unlikely.

Picower had been accused by jilted investors of being the biggest beneficiary of Madoff’s schemes.

Picower and his wife started the Picower Foundation in 1989, which has given millions to MIT, Human Rights First and the NY Public Library. It also funded diabetes research at Harvard Medical School.

The foundation, whose assets were managed by Madoff, said in its 2007 tax return its investment portfolio was valued at nearly $1 billion.

After the Madoff scandal broke last year, the Picower foundation ceased grant-making and closed down.

But many say Picower’s claims that he was a victim “ring hollow” because he withdrew more of other investors’ money than anyone else during three decades and should have noticed signs of fraud.

According to the lawyers, Picower’s accounts were “riddled with blatant and obvious fraud,” and he should have recognized that because he was a sophisticated investor.

Picower had asked that the lawsuit be dismissed, saying it was unsupported by the facts.

Jonathan Landers, an attorney representing a large group of victims, said in an e-mail that it was impossible to tell what effect Picower’s death would have on efforts to recover funds lost in Madoff’s massive Ponzi scheme.

He noted that Picower’s “death could make it easier or more difficult to obtain and collect on claims.”

“It may cause those who have control of his assets to fight harder because there is no longer any personal dignity or desire to settle and move on,” he wrote.



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