Law Practice Management

Ex-Law Firm COO Faces Money-Laundering Conspiracy Case re $1.2B Rothstein Ponzi Scheme

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The chief operating officer of the former Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler law firm has been federally charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering concerning the $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme that now-disbarred attorney Scott Rothstein ran from his South Florida law office.

Once described by Rothstein as his right-hand woman, Debra Villegas, 42, is the second person to be charged in the case after Rothstein himself. She is accused of helping him fabricate and market bogus litigation settlements to investors in the Ponzi scheme, according to the Miami Herald and the South Florida Business Journal.

Others formerly at the now-bankrupt 70-attorney Fort Lauderdale-based law firm are also expected to face charges in the case, the Herald reports, citing anonymous sources.

If convicted, Villegas could be sentenced to a decade in prison and a fine of $250,000 or double the amount she made from the scheme. The feds are also seeking forfeiture of $1.2 million, her Weston, Fla., home and her 2009 Maserati.

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog provides a link to the federal information (PDF) in which Villegas is charged.

Earlier coverage: “Ex-Attorney Mulls Plea in Alleged $1.2B Scheme as Trustee Sues Firm Partner for $4M” “CBS: Lawyer Stung Mafia Suspects to Get Witness Time in $1.2B Scheme”

Updated at 3:31 p.m. to correct the amount Villegas is being asked to forfeit.

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