Manhattan financier and art aficionado Ezra Merkin may pay a high price for passing some $2.4 billion of his own clients’ money to Bernard Madoff, if New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has his way in the matter.


Merkin steered the assets to Madoff in exchange for $470 million in fees, Cuomo alleged in a complaint filed today in New York state Supreme Court in Manhattan. Madoff, 70, pleaded guilty in federal court last month to defrauding investors of as much as $65 billion. He faces as many as 150 years in prison at his sentencing in June.

Investors including prominent charities entrusted their funds to Merkin, who held himself out to be an “investing guru” when in reality he was “but a master marketer,” Cuomo said in the complaint. Other Merkin entities included the Ariel Fund, Ascot Fund Ltd. and Gabriel, his management company.

“Merkin was just a ‘glorified mailbox,’ ” Cuomo said in the filing, using the words of an investor who he said learned in December that Madoff, not Merkin, managed Ascot’s assets.

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