White-Collar Crime

Ex-administrator helped convict 6 lawyers, feds say, asking that judge cut her prison time in half

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A former top administrator for a now-shuttered South Florida law firm helped the federal government convict six attorneys in cases linked to a $1.2 billion swindle by the onetime managing partner, prosecutors say.

They are asking U.S. District Judge William Zloch to cut the prison term for 47-year-old Debra Villegas from 10 years to five years, the Sun Sentinel reports. If the judge agrees, that could pave the way for the former chief operating officer of Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler to be released next year.

Her former boss, now-disbarred attorney Scott Rothstein, is serving a 50-year federal prison term and has also been cooperating with the feds in the hope of reducing his sentence.

Villegas is credited with helping the government convict former Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler name partners Stuart Rosenfeldt and Russell Adler as well as RRA general counsel David Boden and attorneys Christina Kitterman and Steven Lippman.

A sixth lawyer convicted with Villegas’ help, Douglas Bates, was a partner at another firm. Villegas also helped the government win convictions against several nonlawyers, prosecutors say.

She was expected to testify this month in a scheduled state court murder case against her husband, Tony Villegas, 51, an earlier Sun Sentinel (sub. req.) article reported.

The defendant is accused in the 2008 slaying of Rothstein lawyer Melissa Lewis, who was Debra Villegas’ best friend. However, he has been found mentally unfit to stand trial. Meanwhile, he is being held without bond.

The Fort Lauderdale-based RRA law firm imploded and went into bankruptcy after news of Rothstein’s massive fraud came to light in 2008. At one time, it had some 70 attorneys on its roster.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Ex-COO for Rothstein Firm Takes Plea, Explains Why She Helped With $1.4B Scheme”

ABAJournal.com: “3 new pleas linked to ex-law firm chief serving 50 years in $1.2B swindle; 20th conviction now looms”

ABAJournal.com: “3rd name partner of law firm shuttered by founder’s $1.4B swindle takes plea in felony case”

Sun Sentinel: “Two more charged in Rothstein Ponzi scheme”

See also:

ABAJournal.com: “11th Circuit OKs $67M verdict against bank in case linked to ex-law firm chief’s $1.2B fraud”

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