McAllen attorney accused of stealing $461K in restitution from $7B Ponzi scheme

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Federal prosecutors in Dallas have accused a McAllen attorney of stealing approximately $461,792 from the victims of a $7 billion Ponzi scheme.

Della Fay Perez was arrested on a sealed 12-count indictment out of the Northern District of Texas on Monday. There is one other defendant, whose name is redacted in the indictment.

Perez was not involved in the Ponzi scheme, which was orchestrated by Robert Allen Stanford, 74, the former chairman on the board of directors of Stanford International Bank, who misappropriated $7 billion over 20 years.

He is serving 110 years in prison after being convicted in 2012.

Perez and her co-defendant were involved as a neutral third party paymaster tasked with distributing $5.9 billion in restitution a federal judge ordered Stanford to pay his victims, according to the indictment.

“From on or about March 28, 2019 through on or about June 20, 2019, the defendants Della Fay Perez, (Redacted), and others, engaged in a fraudulent scheme to deposit checks issued by a Court-appointed Receiver to victims of a Ponzi scheme, and other business checks stolen from the mail,” the indictment stated.

Perez maintained several law trust accounts where client funds would be held for a short period of time. These are called IOLTA accounts.

“The Receiver is a Dallas attorney appointed by a federal judge to oversee restitution claims arising from the 2012 conviction of a former chairman of an international bank who orchestrated a Ponzi investment fraud scheme in which the chairman misappropriated $7 billion,” the indictment stated. “The receiver processed claims and issued restitution checks to the victims. The Receiver checks were printed in Fort Worth, and entrusted to a private shipment company in the Northern District of Texas.”

The indictment said that on April 8, 2019, approximately 21 restitution checks payable to victims in Mexico were mailed via a private shipment company.

“The value of the checks totaled approximately $461,792.21,” the indictment stated.

Those checks were deposited into an IOLTA account belonging to Perez and were deposited in McAllen.

“In addition to the Receiver checks, between on or about May 2, 2019 and June 20, 2019, multiple business checks drawn on U.S. companies, including companies based in the Northern District of Texas, that were intended for recipients in Mexico and the United States were deposited into Perez’s IOLTA accounts,” the indictment stated.

Perez’s law firm and “a sham entity” that was “purportedly working with a Mexican law firm representing victims of the Ponzi scheme entitled to Receiver checks and other Mexican businesses, entered into two Paymaster Agreements.”

When questioned about the deposits, the indictment said Perez produced “authorization packets” from “Bank 1” that contained falsified copies of passports from Mexican clients, a copy of the check to be deposited and a forged signature for endorsement on the check.

“Over the seven-week period from on or about May 2, 2019 to June 20, 2019, 64 checks totaling $1,290,808.91 were deposited into Perez’s IOLTA accounts,” the indictment stated. “Between May 9, 2019 and June 19, 2019, Perez wired, withdrew or transferred $919,490.79 from her IOLTA accounts to numerous accounts in the United States and Mexico.”

Prosecutors allege that 21 victims of the Ponzi scheme never received their restitution checks that were deposited into Perez’s IOLTA account. The same went for the business checks that were also deposited, according to the indictment.

She is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit bank fraud and 11 counts of bank fraud.

Perez made a first appearance in McAllen federal court on Tuesday and was released on a $100,000 unsecured bond and was ordered to appear next Wednesday for a hearing in federal court in Dallas.