NEW YORK (AP) – A prosecutor asked Monday for the jailing of disgraced financier Bernard Madoff pending trial, saying he broke a promise not to touch his assets by mailing watches, jewelry, cufflinks and mittens estimated to be worth $1 million to relatives and two friends.

“The defendant’s recent actions amount to obstruction of justice,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc Litt told U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald Ellis at an hour-long bail hearing.

The judge ordered both sides to submit written arguments this week and said he would rule later.

Madoff’s lawyer, Ira Sorkin, said his client did not violate a court-imposed asset freeze by mailing heirlooms including $25 cufflinks and a $200 pair of mittens to his brother, a son and daughter-in-law and a New York couple vacationing in Florida.

Sorkin said Madoff and his wife sought the return of the items they had sent on Dec. 24 as soon as they were told they could not send them out.

“We maintain it happened innocently,” Sorkin said. “He’s not a threat to the community, and there’s no danger he’s going to flee.”

The 70-year-old Madoff, a former Nasdaq stock market chairman, was arrested Dec. 11 on securities fraud charges alleging he duped investors out of as much as $50 billion in a giant Ponzi scheme.

The prosecutor told the judge the case against Madoff “is strong and getting stronger.”

Madoff, who owns yachts and mansions in New York’s Hamptons and Palm Beach, Fla., has been confined to his Manhattan apartment under house arrest.

In court, the prosecutor had argued that Madoff obstructed justice by trying to dissipate assets and said that he was a danger to the community because he was liquidating assets needed by his investors.

The judge said he was concerned whether any previous cases have claimed that potential economic harm represented a danger to the community.

“In some instances, economic danger may be more severe than physical danger,” he said.


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