New York Opens Charities Fraud Probe Of Merkin

Jan 15 2009 | 1:29pm ET

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has joined the ranks of those investigating the Bernard Madoff scandal. Cuomo’s office has subpoenaed J. Ezra Merkin, who ran several Madoff feeder funds, and 15 nonprofit entities as part of a probe into alleged charity fraud, he said at a news conference in Manhattan today.

According to Cuomo, who is seeking appointment to the U.S. Senate seat set to be vacated by Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton, charities his office is looking at may have lost more than $100 million in Madoff’s alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme. Cuomo’s office oversees New York nonprofit groups.

“To steal from a charity in essence really does add insult to injury,” Cuomo said.

Merkin is the target of the probe, and the attorney general is seeking information about his Madoff feeder hedge funds, Gabriel Capital Corp., Ariel Fund and Ascot Partners. Cuomo’s investigation is trying to determine whether Merkin solicited money to invest with Madoff from the charities.

Cuomo said his firm isn’t investigating Madoff himself, who has already been charged by federal prosecutors with securities fraud and faces possible additional charges from Connecticut to Europe. The attorney general said he has not determined whether the charges in the charity-fraud case will be criminal or civil.

Among those subpoenaed in the probe are colleges and universities, including Bard College, New York Law School, New York University and Yeshiva University, according to the New York Daily News. Cuomo has also sought information from several other schools, including the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, Ramaz School and the Sar Academy, as well as Carnegie Hall and the United Jewish Appeal-Federation of New York.

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