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Investors burned by Madoff scheme could see more money returned

NEW YORK - Investors burned by Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme could be getting back more of their money.

The trustee in charge of recovering funds for Madoff's victims said Monday he is asking a New York bankruptcy court for permission to distribute another $322 million.

Trustee Irving Picard said that if approved, the latest payment would bring the total distributed so far to Madoff investors to $7.2 billion.

Madoff's multi-decade fraud lost about $20 billion from thousands of investors. His firm told clients they were gaining steady returns when in fact Madoff was using money from new investors to distribute funds to existing clients while financing a lavish lifestyle for him.

Picard, appointed after Madoff's scheme collapsed in 2008, has recovered about $10.5 billion.

A hearing is scheduled for January on whether to approve the latest distribution, which would send payments to about 1,000 Madoff investors. The smallest proposed payout is $391, the largest, almost $61 million.

The process for returning the recovered funds has been arduous, with victims filing lawsuits and other complaints over how Picard has chosen to distribute the money.

Madoff, 76, pleaded guilty to federal fraud charges in March 2009 and is serving a 150-year prison sentence.

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