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November 16, 2010 > Government sells spoils of Madoff's lavish life

Government sells spoils of Madoff's lavish life

By Verena Dobnik, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP), Nov 13 - Anyone wanting to walk in the shoes of fallen financier Bernard Madoff is in luck: Thousands of belongings from his New York City penthouse, including his used shoes, went on the auction block Saturday.

Auction proceeds, expected to top $1.2 million, will go to more than 3,000 clients Madoff swindled in a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme. The disgraced 72-year-old convict is behind bars for life in a federal prison in North Carolina.

A 1917 Steinway grand piano from his living room went for $42,000 - six times the minimum estimate of $7,000. The buyer was an 81-year-old Long Island real estate executive.

``I've got loads of pianos, but this one has history - it'll make an interesting conversation piece,'' said John Rodger, an amateur pianist who will keep the Steinway in his home in East Islip.

The Manhattan sale is the last auction in New York of Madoff belongings. A third and final auction is to be held in Florida to sell off items from a Palm Beach home that went for more than $5.5 million last month.

Three hours into the New York auction, the highest bid was for an oil painting by the late American artist Frederick Carl Frieseke that sold for $47,500. A stainless-steel Rolex watch with an oyster band sold for $40,000, against an estimate of $65,000 to $70,000.

When Madoff was arrested two years ago, U.S. marshals seized everything in the apartment and his Long Island beach house: worn socks, new monogrammed boxer shorts, Italian velveteen slippers bearing the initials ``BLM'' in gold embroidery. All of it is being sold.

His wife, Ruth Madoff, was ordered to leave their home. Her diamond engagement was up for sale Saturday, worth at least $300,000 but expected to fetch far more.

The auction started in the morning in a ballroom of the Sheraton New York Hotel & Towers at fever pitch.

Buyers raised their hand to signal a bid - accompanied by a bloodcurdling shout from one of the bid-spotters from Texas if it was a winning price.

Their swaggering style - as if herding bulls instead of selling them - seemed appropriate for a sale of the belongings of a Wall Street trader who cherished the winning bull in every form. He bought statues and paintings of them, and even named his boats ``Bull,'' ``Sitting Bull'' and ``Little Bull.''

A leather bull foot stool - including a tail that had broken off - sold for $3,300, against a pre-sale estimate of $250 to $360.

The Madoffs apparently didn't make much room for house guests.

The auction included their early 19th-century bed with fabric hangings and ``intense sun fading,'' at a pre-auction estimate of $8,000 to $11,400.

``Just $500?'' the incredulous auctioneer, Bob Sheehan, said of the first bid, adding, ``This was the only bed in the whole house, I'm not kidding! $500? My God, it's not a pullout.''

It sold for $2,250.

Madoff loved shoes. He owned about 250 pairs, many never worn - made in Italy, France, Belgium and England.

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