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Worlds Colliding for N.Y. Fed Prosecutor — Thanks to Dad and Bernie Madoff

In the Seinfeldian world, George Costanza complained of “worlds colliding” when his girlfriend started hanging out with Elaine. In N.Y., Richard Zabel, chief of the criminal division for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, has seen worlds collide with his father over a case tied to Bernie Madoff.  It has created a sticky situation for his office. Here’s the details.

George Costanza complained about "worlds colliding". Prosecutor Richard Zabel has the same problem.
George Costanza complained about “worlds colliding”. Prosecutor Richard Zabel has the same problem.

By Mary Jacoby
Main Justice
WASHINGTON — Two weeks ago Richard Zabel, the new criminal chief of the Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney’s office, recused himself from the Bernard Madoff investigation because his father represented an investor accused of being the biggest beneficiary of the $65 billion fraud.

On Sunday, William D. Zabel’s client was found dead at the bottom of his pool at his mansion in Palm Beach, Fla. The Palm Beach Police Department said it was conducting an investigation of the death of investor Jeffry Picower, who was 67, as is “standard operating procedure in any drowning.”

The sudden death of this alleged key figure in the Madoff scheme underscores some potentially thorny management issues for the new U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara. Bharara named Zabel his criminal chief on Oct. 6, calling the former Akin Gump criminal defense attorney a “legal All-Star.” Zabel also served eight years as an SDNY prosecutor in the 1990s.

Although Bharara’s pick for criminal chief quickly recused himself from all Madoff-related matters, line prosecutors now may have little choice but to attempt to seek information from his father, insofar as attorney-client privilege allows.

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