Nightly News | February 06, 2011
LESTER HOLT, anchor (Amman, Jordan): development in the Bernie Madoff fraud scandal to tell you about tonight. Turns out the owners of the New York Mets made a fortune investing through Madoff and now are being asked to give up $300 million in profits. NBC 's Mike Taibbi has the latest.
MIKE TAIBBI reporting: With a new $600 million stadium and a payroll north of 130 million a year, the New York Mets may not have won enough to satisfy their fans, but baseball has been very good to their owners, owners who said they were among the biggest losers in convicted fraudster Bernie Madoff 's historic Ponzi scheme .
Mr. FRED WILPON (New York Mets Owner): You don't like to lose money that is just stolen from you. But the betrayal is something I'll never, ever forget.
TAIBBI: But now the trustee representing Madoff 's victims is suing the Mets owners, corporate name Sterling Equities , calling them "one of the largest beneficiaries of Madoff 's fraud, reaping hundreds of millions in fictitious profits over a quarter century while they willfully turned a blind eye to every warning sign and red flag of fraud." In other words, that they did business with a crook and had to have known it.
Mr. MICHAEL CORNACCHIA (Attorney): Even if you don't know specifically that there are -- if there are signs that should've led you to know, and you ignored them, then you are held liable.
TAIBBI: On a day like today , the baseball season seems far away, but it's really only a month before pitchers and catchers report to spring training, and the Mets , one of the game's glamor franchises, are already a tabloid mess. Did the Wilpon family benefit from the Madoff fraud? Could the owners have to pony up a billion dollars to settle? Or is it just a strong-arm shake-down by the trustee? The owners' lawyer calls the lawsuit "baseless, absurd, character assassination," saying, "They would not have dealt for one minute with someone they thought might be engaged in fraud." Still, the Mets are seeking a new partner to raise capital if needed.
Mr. DAVE ZIRIN (Sportswriter): I think if you ask most New York Mets fans, and I have to say I count myself as one, the best scenario would be the Wilpons making a graceful exit.
TAIBBI: As for the team on the field, optimists point out that the Texas Rangers spend last year going through bankruptcy and ended up in the World Series . When the Mets open their season on April 1st , they'll be tied for first place. Mike Taibbi , NBC News, New York.