Courts & Crime

Aide to Ponzi schemer Rothstein gets 10 years

Debra Villegas, the former right-hand woman for Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein, was sentenced Friday to serve 10 years in prison and pay $363 million in restitution.

Villegas had hoped a federal judge in Fort Lauderdale would cut her some slack on the potential 10-year prison sentence for scheming with the convicted lawyer to launder money from his $1.2 billion investment racket.

Villegas' attorney, Robert Stickney, was seeking a lesser sentence from U.S. District Judge William Zloch, stressing that his client accepted responsibility for her criminal conduct and pleaded guilty to a money-laundering conspiracy count in June.

``I am very sorry to all the victims, and all the employees who lost their jobs,'' Villegas, 43, said in court. She also apologized to her family.

Prosecutors had recommended a sentence of just over seven years, and Stickney had sought ``home confinement for a period of time,'' also about seven years.

The judge gave Villegas until June 24 to surrender to authorities.

Villegas, who once lived in a $475,000 home in Weston and drove a Maserati that Rothstein bought for her, was the first co-conspirator named in his investment scam, which unraveled almost one year ago.

Read the complete story at the