CNN — Some of the victims of Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme will have to keeping waiting to get their money back, according to a former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman who is now in charge of distributing billions of dollars in stolen assets.
SEC veteran and hedge fund founder Richard Breeden, who was appointed by the U.S. Department of Justice in December of 2012 as "special master" of $2.35 billion in forfeited assets, announced a delay in the distribution of those funds to victims of Madoff's scheme.
Breeden is having trouble distinguishing Madoff "victims" from "customers," which is stymieing the process of returning stolen assets, according to a written statement on his website www.madoffvictimfund.com .
"Decisions on eligibility will affect literally thousands of potential victims," some of whom have not yet received any recovered funds. "Therefore, the Department of Justice has to consider all aspects of these complicated issues ... so that it can produce the most equitable overall result."
Breeden controls about one-fourth of the $9.4 billion in funds recovered from Madoff's $17.5 billion scheme, primarily assets collected through forfeitures to the U.S. government.
The rest is handled by court-appointed trustee Irving Picard, who is in charge of recovering and redistributing a separate pool of Madoff assets, largely collected through civil settlements. Picard has already returned about half the recovered funds -- nearly $4.8 billion -- to victims.
Breeden did not say how long his efforts will take, only that he plans to publish updates for victims to his website every 45 days.
As part of the recovery process, Madoff's personal assets were seized in order to compensate victims, including his yacht "The Bull," jewelry, a Mets jacket, a penthouse in Manhattan, a beachhouse in Montauk, N.Y., and posh homes in Florida and the South of France.
Meanwhile, Madoff is languishing at a federal prison in North Carolina, where he is serving a 150-year sentence after pleading guilty, in 2009, to running the largest Ponzi scheme in history.