Jury Finds Ft. Lauderdale Businessman George Levin Liable in Rothstein Ponzi Scheme

A federal jury has found a wealthy Fort Lauderdale business accused of funneling some $157 million in investors' money into disbarred lawyer Scott Rothstein's billion-dollar Ponzi scheme liable for fraud.

The verdict against George Levin marked a victory for the Securities and Exchange Commission, which had filed a civil suit against him in Miami federal court almost three years ago, accusing him of swindling 173 investors through a bogus investment fund known as Banyon.

A ruling on the penalties Levin must pay is expected in the coming weeks.

Levin's lawyer Daniel Rashbaum did not immediately return a call for comment Wednesday but told Reuters his client was disappointed in the jury's verdict and was the Rothstein scheme's main victim, having invested in the scheme himself.

Levin has maintained in the past that he wasn't aware of the fraud. Rothstein had said in deposition transcripts that he did, Bloomberg reported.

Rothstein himself is already serving a 50-year prison sentence for the scheme, and Levin's accused co-conspirator Frank Preve, who was criminally charged and pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, will head to prison to start serving a 3 1/2-year sentence in June.

The SEC had accused Levin and Preve of investing in Rothstein's fake legal settlements while assuring the investors that their money was safe and the investments were successful. The men lured investors with documents containing misrepresentations and omissions, the SEC charged.

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