Nov. 9 (UPI) -- Victims of convicted hedge fund fraudster Bernie Madoff will start to receive payments from a compensation fund, the Department of Justice announced Thursday.
The initial distribution of funds from the Bernie Madoff Victim Fund will send $772.5 million to 24,631 victims around the world. They will mark the first payments in what is expected to amount to over $4 billion in victim compensation. More than 65,000 people in 136 countries have applied through the Madoff Victim Fund.
The Justice Department said the combined payments will mark the largest ever distribution of forfeited funds.
"We have recovered billions of dollars from third parties -- not Mr. Madoff -- and are now returning that money to tens of thousands of victims," said U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Fund administrator Richard Breeden said in June that more than 35,000 petitions claiming total losses of more than $6.5 billion had been approved by the department, Bloomberg reported.
The fund was created in 2012 after the U.S. authorities seized $2.4 billion from the estate of one of Madoff's largest investors, Jeffry Picower. JPMorgan Chase, which was accused of ignoring illegal activity committed by Madoff, contributed $1.7 billion in 2014 as part of a deal with U.S. authorities.
"The remaining funds were collected through a civil forfeiture action against investor Carl Shapiro and his family, and from civil and criminal forfeiture actions against Bernard L. Madoff, Peter B. Madoff and their co-conspirators," the department said.
Madoff pleaded guilty in 2009 to charges surrounding what's considered to be the largest financial fraud scheme in U.S. history, in which he bilked investors out of more than $60 billion. He's serving a 150-year sentence in federal prison.