A philanthropist who lost megabucks in the Bernie Madoff scam has found a more tangible investment: homes in Ann Arbor Hills. The Observer has learned that at least four houses in the affluent east-side neighborhood have been purchased by a company owned by Jeanne Levy-Church, whose late father, Norman E. Levy, was a close friend of the now- infamous financier. Levy-Church and her husband, Ken, were big-league donors. They funded a foundation that aided ex-prisoners to the tune of $30 million a year and planned to distribute another $15 million to $20 million annually in grants through their new Ann Arbor–based Fair Food Foundation. But all the foundations’ funds were “invested” with Madoff, and after his Ponzi scheme collapsed last fall, the Levy-Churches announced that both would close (though the Fair Food Foundation subsequently reinvented itself as the lower-budget Fair Food Project).

After Bernie Madoff, even depreciating real estate may look like a good buy. Why the Levy-Churches chose Ann Arbor is unclear, though Ken, a former history professor in New York, is a U-M alumnus. The couple are said to be living at least occasionally in one of the homes. Ken Levy-Church declined to be interviewed, saying they have “a lot on our plate right now” and want to “keep a low profile.” One source, though, says that the Levy-Churches have done a “huge amount of remodeling” in at least one of the houses. And they pleased some bemused neighbors last Christmas by bringing them big baskets of fruit.