US & Canada

US lawyer jailed in Florida for $1bn Ponzi scheme

Artist's rendering of Scott Rothstein in court on 9 June, 2010
Image caption Rothstein was head of a major law firm in Fort Lauderdale

A US court has sentenced a prominent Florida lawyer to 50 years in prison for running a fraudulent investment scheme worth more than $1bn (£685m).

Scott Rothstein had admitted selling shares in fabricated legal settlements and using some of the money to pay previous investors in a Ponzi scheme.

The scam allowed Mr Rothstein to buy several homes, sports cars and a yacht.

He also became friends with celebrities and politicians, including California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Rothstein, 47, was convicted on charges of conspiracy to commit bank transfer fraud, money laundering and criminal conspiracy related to the financial scam, in which new investors' money was used to pay off earlier investors.

In a brief statement in court on Wednesday, Rothstein apologised and said he would do "everything in my power" to help investors recoup their losses.

The judge in the case said he was particularly troubled that Mr Rothstein had abused the judicial system for his scam, forging the signatures of at least three federal judges.

"This rags-to-riches-to-jail saga is a humbling reminder of what can happen when greed and ambition run amok," US Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said.

"Rothstein manipulated and abused the trust of all whom he knew - his friends, family, business partners, legal colleagues, political figures, and even charitable organisations," added Mr Ferrer.

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