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Envoy Must Return Cash |Tied to Ponzi Scheme

NEW ORLEANS (CN) - Former U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador Peter Romero must return more than $700,000 that convicted Ponzi schemer R. Allen Stanford paid him during his eight years as an international advisor, the Fifth Circuit ruled.

A three-judge panel rejected the former dignitary's argument that the court-appointed receiver for Stanford's companies did not timely file his February 2011 complaint.

Stanford - who turns 66 next week - is serving a 110-year prison sentence after a federal jury in Houston, Texas, convicted him in 2012 of running a $7 billion Ponzi scheme premised on the sale of phony certificates of deposit.

In 2011, receiver Ralph Janvey went after Romero, one of several political figures recruited to lend credibility to Stanford's fraudulent operations. Romero's case was the first to go to trial.

Romero, appointed to the ambassadorship by Bill Clinton, retired from the U.S. Department of State in 2001.

Shortly thereafter, he began working part-time as a member of the Stanford International Advisory Board. According to court documents, he received $700,000 in advisory board fees that were paid out over his eight years on the board from at least four Stanford entities.

In a unanimous 7-0 ruling in February 2015, jurors found in favor of the receiver on both the fraudulent transfer and unjust enrichment claims. A final judgment of $788,655 in damages was awarded against Romero.

The Fifth Circuit affirmed the award Wednesday, rejecting the former ambassador's claims that a portion of the fraudulent transfer claim is barred by the statute of repose.

"Considering the aforementioned evidence together with the entire record, we hold there was a legally sufficient evidentiary basis for the jury's finding that the receiver did not discover and could not reasonably have discovered the transfers to Romero and their fraudulent nature until after February 15, 2010," U.S. Circuit Judge Fortunato Benavides wrote for the panel.

"Therefore, the receiver's fraudulent transfer claim was timely under [the Texas Uniform Fraudulent Transfers Act's] statute of repose."

Romero is one of more than 1,300 defendants that Janvey has sought to recover assets from on behalf of the receivership estate.

Last March the Fifth Circuit ruled that the Golf Channel must return nearly $6 million that Stanford's companies paid it for advertising. Other targets have included the Tiger Woods Foundation, the Miami Heat basketball team, Texas A&M University, the University of Miami, the PGA Tour and the ATP Tour.

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