NEW YORK (AFP) – Thousands of people who lost money in Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme got good news Friday when the estate of an investor who earned a fortune from the fraud agreed to surrender 7.2 billion dollars. The estate of late Madoff ally Jeffry Picower "has agreed to forfeit to the US 7.2 billion dollars. This is the largest forfeiture recovery in US history," federal prosecutor Preet Bharara told a press conference. "The entire 7.2 billion dollars will be distributed to the victims. We expect to distribute the money in the new year." Government trustee Irving Picard is clawing back money from Madoff family members and investors that profited from the decades-long pyramid scheme, or Ponzi fraud, the biggest in Wall Street history. The big haul from Picower's estate quadruples the size of the trustee's fund. Picower, who made billions as one of Madoff's top investors, died October 2009 of a heart attack in his Florida swimming pool, just under a year after Madoff was arrested. His widow, Barbara Picower, said: "It is a great tragedy that my husband Jeffry's sudden and untimely death last fall prevented him from seeing the timely and full restoration of his reputation for honesty, integrity and professional achievement. "He was committed to overcoming the devastation resulting from Bernard Madoff's fraud by reaching a fair and generous settlement with Mr Picard." Madoff, serving a 150-year prison sentence, was arrested in December 2008 and pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court to running a Ponzi scheme that Picard has estimated lost some 20 billion dollars of investors' money. Prior to the 7.2 billion haul announced Friday, Picard had retrieved some 2.6 billion dollars, partly through confiscation of Madoff family properties and auction of personal belongings. "The importance of this settlement cannot be overstated, as it shows significant progress in our efforts to assemble the largest customer fund possible," Picard said in a statement. "This agreement puts the best interests of the Madoff customers first, is fair and equitable, and avoids time-consuming litigation," David Sheehan, a lawyer with the trustee, said. Madoff's family, which spent decades living in luxury as a result of Bernard Madoff's vast theft, was struck by tragedy this month when one of his two sons committed suicide. Mark Madoff, 46, hanged himself in his Manhattan apartment on the second anniversary of his father's arrest. Bernard Madoff chose not to attend any funeral, his lawyer said, although it was not clear whether prison authorities would have granted him permission anyway. My Take: Wenzetu huko USA wanafanya kila liwezekanalo kuhakikisha waathirika wa UPATU WA MADORF wanafidiwa hasara waliyopata. Hapa TZ mmmhhh!!!! kumekuwa na kimya kirefu juu ya hatima ya watu walioathirika na UPATU WA DECI. Bado hakuna jitihada za dhati kwa upande wa serikali kuhakikisha kuwa watu hao wanafidiwa.