NEW YORK — Epic Ponzi scheme mastermind Bernard Madoff is dead. But the effort to untangle his web of deceit lives on.

More than 12 years after Madoff confessed to running one of the biggest financial fraud in Wall Street history, a team of lawyers is still at work on a sprawling effort to recover money for the thousands of victims of his scam.

Their labors, which have already secured $14.5 billion of the estimated $17.5 billion investors put into Madoff’s sham investment business, didn’t cease with the financier’s death in prison in April.

Ongoing litigation by Irving Picard, a court-appointed trustee for the liquidation of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, and his chief counsel, David Sheehan, could potentially pull in billions of dollars more.

“You don’t like to see anyone die. But in this case, it wasn’t going to have any impact on what we’re doing,” Picard told The Associated Press. “Our work goes on.”

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WHERE IT STARTED

The painstaking process of trying to unwind Madoff’s fraud began not long after the money manager’s arrest in December 2008.

His downfall came as a result of a national financial crisis in which banks that had made reckless bets on mortgage-backed securities collapsed and investors scrambled to pull money out of the stock market.

Spooked investors started making withdrawals from Madoff’s investment fund, too, but he ran out of money to give them. While his books said his fund was worth $60 billion, most of…

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