Israel’s RV, Scooter Head For The Auction Block

Jul 31 2008 | 2:39am ET

The apparatus of convicted hedge fund swindler Samuel Israel’s flight from justice are now the means toward making his investors whole.

U.S. District Judge Colleen McMahon signed a preliminary order this week requiring Israel to forfeit the recreational vehicle and motorscooter with which he fled on June 2, the day he was scheduled to report to prison to begin a 20 year sentence for defrauding Bayou Group investors of $450 million.

Israel turned himself in to authorities in Southwick, Mass., on July 2. He had been living at a campground in the RV since ditching his car on a bridge north of New York City with the words, “suicide is painless,” scrawled on the hood.

In addition to the RV and scooter, McMahon ordered the Tiffany & Co. watch Israel was wearing sold, and the proceeds put towards the $150 million in restitution he was ordered to pay. The $932 in cash Israel had on him will also go towards paying the restitution down.

The assets ordered sold by McMahon may get Israel’s victims several thousand dollars, but the U.S. Marshals Service has recovered some $115 million by liquidating Bayou’s portfolio. The Bayou sale is part of the evolution of the Marshals Service’s role overseeing forfeiture sales, which it has done since 1984. Previously focused on more mundane items such as jewelry and cars, the Marshals are now running a portfolio worth some $1.7 billion, including 30 businesses—grocery stores, a Puerto Rico banana plantation and a Connecticut trash company among them.

“As the criminals become more sophisticated, we’ve had to become more sophisticated,” Eben Morales, head of asset-forfeiture with the Marshals, told Bloomberg News.

Of course, some of the white collar fraudsters are less sophisticated than others, such as the felons behind Bayou.

“You can’t believe some of the stupid investments these people made,” Leonard Briskman, the Marshals’ deputy chief for business management, told Bloomberg. Briskman is overseeing the Bayou portfolio.

“The Bayou guys lost money during the late ‘90s when almost everybody was making money in the market without even trying.”

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