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."