Page last updated at 20:34 GMT, Tuesday, 1 December 2009

US lawyer charged over $1bn Ponzi fraud scheme

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Mr Rothstein gave money to political campaigns

A former lawyer charged with operating a $1bn (£600m) investment fraud scheme has pleaded not guilty.

Scott Rothstein, 47, based in South Florida, denied the charges before a federal magistrate in Fort Lauderdale.

The alleged Ponzi scheme, where early investors were paid with new client's money, is similar to that run by Bernard Madoff.

Earlier this year, Mr Madoff was handed a 150-year jail sentence for operating a $50bn fraud scheme.

Mr Rothstein was also charged with wire fraud, money laundering, and mail and wire fraud conspiracy.

He pleaded not guilty to all the charges.

According to court documents, the combined maximum prison term for convictions on all counts is 100 years.

Federal prosecutors have seized some of Mr Rothstein's assets, including his yacht.

The former lawyer was a frequent contributor to political campaigns and was often photographed with big-hitting politicians.

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