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The Madoffs' life of excess fetches more than expected

NEW YORK — It was about fascination with big money — and the life of a couple at the center of the biggest financial fraud case in U.S. history.

Bernard and Ruth Madoff's belongings fetched as much as 20 times their estimated value at auction Saturday.

Alan Richardson, a Florida dealer, almost got the fallen financier's blue satin New York Mets baseball jacket with his surname stitched on the back, valued at up to $720. The bidder lost — just shy of the $14,500 final price.

Two pairs of Ruth Madoff's diamond dangle earrings sold for $70,000 each, against an estimate of no more than $9,800 and $21,400. But the most highly prized item, Bernard Madoff's Rolex watch, fetched only $65,000, paid by an unknown buyer. The watch was valued between $75,000 and $85,000.

The auction, in the main ballroom of a Manhattan hotel, was organized by the U.S. Marshals Service, which seized the couple's properties — a penthouse on Manhattan's Upper East Side and houses in Montauk, N.Y., and Palm Beach.

Inside the homes were some of the items on the block Saturday, ordered forfeited as part of Madoff's sentencing after he pleaded guilty in a multibillion-dollar fraud that burned thousands of investors. Proceeds from the auction will be divided among his victims.

The lots ranged from dishes, pens and stationery to duck decoys, furs and the Rolex.

The sale sums up the Madoffs in a nutshell, auction observer Lark Mason said.

"They wanted to show off their lifestyle with big houses, yachts, jewelry," he said. "They didn't buy things they were passionate about — they just wanted more and more."

The Madoffs' life of excess fetches more than expected 11/14/09 [Last modified: Saturday, November 14, 2009 9:27pm]
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