PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Jeffry Picower, a Florida philanthropist alleged to have extracted billions from Bernard Madoff's investment scheme, drowned in his pool Sunday, police said. He was 67.
The former New York lawyer and accountant had been a friend of Madoff for decades.
A statement from Palm Beach police said Picower's wife and a maid found the body at the bottom of the pool Sunday afternoon and rescue workers could not revive him. Picower was transported to Good Samaritan Medical Center where he was pronounced dead at about 1:30 p.m.
Police are investigating the death, as is standard for any drowning, the statement said. Detectives were still at the home Sunday afternoon.
Joseph Sekula, spokesman for the Palm Beach Fire Department, said a 911 call came in at about noon about a possible drowning at Picower's oceanside home. As rescuers reached the back of the house, they found Picower lying by the edge of the pool, Sekula said. Picower's wife and housekeeper had pulled him from the water, he added.
"He was pulseless upon arrival of crews so they started CPR immediately," Sekula said. Rescuers worked on Picower for about 20
minutes trying to revive him before transporting him to Good Samaritan in nearby West Palm Beach.
Sekula said Picower's pulse returned as he was brought into the emergency room, but authorities said he died a short time later at the hospital.
Sekula said Picower's body showed no visible injuries.
"There wasn't anything noted as far as trauma or anything to the body," he said.
An operator at Good Samaritan said the hospital wouldn't be making any statements.
In the initial aftermath of the Madoff scandal in December 2008, the foundation Picower and his wife started in 1989 said it would have to cease grant-making and would be forced to close. The Picower Foundation had given millions to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Human Rights First and the New York Public Library. It also funded diabetes research at Harvard Medical School. The foundation, whose assets were managed by Madoff, said in its 2007 tax return its investment portfolio was valued at nearly $1 billion.
But Picower was later sued by the trustee recovering Bernard Madoff's assets for jilted investors. Irving Picard labeled the Florida philanthropist as the biggest beneficiary of Madoff's multibillion-dollar fraud and demanded he return more than $7 billion in bogus profits.
In court filings, Picard's lawyers have said Picower's claims that he was a victim "ring hollow" since Picower withdrew more of other investors' money than anyone else during three decades of investing with Madoff and should have noticed signs of fraud.
According to the lawyers, Picower's accounts were "riddled with blatant and obvious fraud," and he should have recognized that since he was a sophisticated investor.
Picower had asked that the lawsuit be dismissed, saying it is unsupported by the facts. Messages left for Picower's lawyer, William Zabel, and his wife's attorney, Marcy Harris, weren't immediately returned Sunday.
Madoff is serving a 150-year prison sentence after he admitted losing billions of dollars for thousands of clients over a half-century career that saw him rise to be a Nasdaq chairman.
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