Madoff yacht auction starts today

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If you want to bid on one of Bernie Madoff's yachts, you can do it today starting at 4 p.m. today at National Liquidators in Fort Lauderdale - but you'll have to register as a bidder and plunk down $100,000 in earnest money.

The auction is private and is closed to press and public. Twenty-nine bidders had registered by Monday and 40 were expected to turn out, said U.S. Marshals spokesman Barry Golden Monday during press tours of the boats.

Registration information is available at www.yachtauctions.com/madoff.

On the auction block: Bull, a classic 1969 55-foot Rybovich sportfisherman; Sitting Bull, a custom 2003 Shelter Island 38-foot runabout similar to crooner Billy Joel's; and Little Bull, a 24-foot Maverick center console, all well-maintained.

Also on the auction block: Madoff's 1999 black Mercedes Benz convertible with just 12,827 miles on it and a 2003 61-foot Viking sportfish, Dorothy Jo, seized from Frank DePascali Jr., Madoff's chief financial officer, who pleaded guilty to 10 counts in the fraud case and now is cooperating with federal authorities.

National Liquidators is taking advantage of all the hoopla over the Madoff yachts to offer for auction at the same time three repossessed yachts - a 1993 95-foot Devo Mill;  a 2008 74-foot Novatec; and a 2004 68-foot Uniesse, all motoryachts, all seized from their owners for default on their loan payments.

The marshals are hoping the yachts will fetch top dollar. At an auction of 200 Madoff items Saturday at the Sheraton hotel in Manhattan, U.S. Marshals raked in about $1 million, said Jenny Crane, of the U.S. Marshals Service asset forfeiture division in Washington, D.C. That's about twice what they expected the items would fetch. Madoff's blue satin New York Mets baseball jacket with his surname stitched on the back had been valued at $720. It sold for $14,500 at Saturday's auction. Team owners Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, who gave Madoff the jacket, were among the victims of Madoff's fraud.

Mastermind of a $65 billion Ponzi scheme, the 71-year-old Madoff is serving a 150-year prison sentence. The Marshals service seized the boats April 1 and 2, along with Madoff's beach house at Montauk, N.Y., his penthouse suite in Manhattan and his mansion in Palm Beach, Fla. The Montauk house sold for $9.4 million in September. It had been listed for $8.75 million.

Proceeds from the auctions go toward restitution of those Madoff defrauded.

"From Day One, our goal has been to raise as much money as possible to give back to the victims," Crane said.

— Jim Flannery

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