Smoldering Madoff anger

Tuesday, March 17
Posted 11 a.m. EDT

FIRED UP: Bernard Madoff and his wife, Ruth, own a $9 million mansion in Palm Beach. Actually, that's not true. Ruth is listed as the owner. She has been granted a homestead exemption. The homestead exemption means that Bernard Madoff's victims can't force the sale of the house and its $10 million in furnishings. Ruth Madoff will get to relax in style.

Palm Beach Post reporters Sonja Isger and Charles Elmore write: "Investors burned by financier Bernard Madoff are incensed at the thought of her keeping the luxury home, Boca Raton attorney Guy Fronstin said." Burned and incensed, huh? Interesting imagery in those words.

Florida attracts more than its share of rogues with its permissive homestead exemption law. A deadbeat or crook can shield a house from civil lawsuits, no matter how much the house is worth. In most other states, there's a limit on the home's value that can be protected. If you've ever wondered why O.J. Simpson relocated to Florida from his native California, now you know.

The timing of Ruth Madoff's homestead exemption is remarkable. She tried to get the exemption in 2007 but was rebuffed because she already had a homestead exemption on a penthouse in Manhattan. So she dropped that exemption in New York, got a Florida driver's license, made sure to vote in Palm Beach, and reapplied for a homestead exemption last September, three months before her husband was arrested. Her Florida homestead exemption was granted Jan. 12.

That was less than a month after Ruth and Bernard mailed boxes of jewelry to his sons and brother, even though he had promised a judge that he would not dispose of any of his assets.


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