Saul Katz and Fred Wilpon
Call this the payback pitch.
The Mets' owners will have to cough up their phony profits from investing with Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff, a judge ruled today.
But Manhattan federal Judge Jed Rakoff said the exact amount -- which Madoff bankruptcy trustee Irving Picard pegged at $83.3 million -- "will be determined in a subsequent order and may require further briefing and oral argument."
Rakoff also rejected efforts by the Mets' owners to block a March 19 trial over the $300 million-plus in principal that they got back in the two years before Madoff's massive con collapsed in December 2008.
Picard claims Madoff's victims are entitled to that money because the Mets' owners were "willfully blind" to the Madoff's fraud when they handed over the cash.
In a four-page ruling, Rakoff said he "remains skeptical that the trustee can ultimately rebut the defendants' showing of good faith, let alone impute bad faith to all the defendants" for investing with Madoff.
"Conclusions are no substitute for facts, and too much of what the parties characterized as bombshells proved to be nothing but bombast," Rakoff wrote.
"Nevertheless, there remains a residue of disputed assertions from which a jury could infer either good faith or bad faith depending on which assertions are credited."
Lawyers for the Mets didn't immediately return a request for comment.
Today’s ruling is Picard’s first victory in the tangled case. The trustee initially sued the team’s owners for $1 billion, including profits and principal over the six-year period leading up to Madoff’s arrest.
Madoff is currently serving a 150-year prison sentence in North Carolina for orchestrating the multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme.