The first $272 million in payments to victims of the massive $65-billion pyramid scheme perpetrated by Bernard Madoff was approved by a U.S. bankruptcy judge.
According to a court document, Judge Burton Lifland authorized the "interim distribution" that had been requested in May by Irving Picard, the trustee responsible for recovering Madoff's funds.
The initial payout of $272 million will compensate 1,224 claims with an average payment of $222,551 per claimant.
According to the court document, the judge also authorized the creation of a fund containing $2.6 billion in recovered Madoff monies that would be paid out to victims as soon as various appeals are resolved.
Picard has clawed back more than $7.6 billion from Madoff's estate and from investors who benefited from the pyramid scheme, but much of the money is still frozen as the appeals work their way through the courts.
The trustee has filed numerous high-profile lawsuits against those he alleged were complicit in the Madoff fraud, including Wall Street bank JPMorgan Chase and the owners of the New York Mets baseball team.
Madoff, 72, is serving a 150-year prison term for masterminding what is considered one of the biggest pyramid schemes ever, which by his account took in $65 billion dollars before it was uncovered in December 2008.
His victims, who invested with him over more than two decades, included charities, major banks, Hollywood moguls and savvy financial player