Currencies trader sentenced to 24 years for fraud

AP News
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Posted: Nov 19, 2009 4:52 PM

A foreign currencies trader who cheated investors in more than 20 states to support a lavish lifestyle and buy presents for a girlfriend has been sentenced to 24 years in prison.

A federal judge in Chattanooga also ordered Luis Hiram Rivas to pay more than $18 million in restitution, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Tennessee.

In a deal with prosecutors, the 56-year-old pleaded guilty in August to wire fraud, money laundering and bankruptcy.

Indictments in Tennessee and South Carolina accuse him of running a Ponzi scheme in which he cheated investors out of more than $18 million while promising 60 percent returns on their investments.

Records show Rivas had offices in Chattanooga; Knoxville; Spartanburg, S.C.; Tulsa, Okla.; and Panama City, Fla.

U.S. Bankruptcy Trustee Grey Steed, appointed by a judge to go through Rivas' financial records, has said about 495 people invested. Some lost entire retirement funds.

A public auction of luxury cars, jewelry and furs helped recover some money.

Rivas fled Chattanooga in May 2008. Court records show he was caught in Topeka, Kan., carrying about $100,000 in cash.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Gary Humble has said Rivas gave $225,000 to the "mother of his child to hide from bankruptcy trustees."