I've been following this case for years, to see how Albert Peter, former CEO of Silversea Cruises and the now disolved attempt at becoming the CEO of Jewel River Cruise Line would fit into this tale of investor woe.
"Love" letters (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) have now surfaced from Albert Peter back and forth to disbarred, Florida mafia lawyer Scott Rothstein outlining the relationship the two men had while investors were being defrauded in an organized crime, money laundering, Ponzi scheme that turned out to be the largest fraud scheme in Florida history, amounting to $1,200,000,000.00.
On December 1, 2009, the U.S. Attorney began criminal proceedings against Rothstein along with several key mafia bosses and dozens of their footmen. The mafia families included are Santa Maria di Gusu family from Palermo, Italy and Gambino family from New York. At least 25 people have been arrested since Rothstein went State's evidence.
One of those arrested and convicted was Debra Villegas who worked at Rothstein's firm. She was charged with helping Rothstein forge documents showing the firm had more money than they did in order to fool investors. Rothstein is reported to have helped her get out an alleged abusive marriage with Tony Villegas.
Rothstein gave Debra Villegas a $400,000 house and other gifts, which were clawed back for liquidation and repayment to defrauded investors. Villegas told investigators that she helped Rothstein because he told her that he was being forced into the scheme by the mafia, which had become deeply rooted in Ft. Lauderdale.
Rothstein Chief Operating Officer Melissa Britt Lewis, 39, a friend to Debra Villegas, was allegedly murdered by Debra Villegas estranged husband, Tony on March 7, 2008. Villegas was originally deemed incompetent to stand trial in 2010. Earlier this year they found him able to stand trial. If convicted, he could get the death penalty. There was media speculation Lewis was a mafia hit, having discovered Rothstein's scheme, threatening to go to law enforcement and that Tony Villegas was the perfect Patsy, given his alleged history of angry management issues.
Rothstein was charged with federal organized crime laws under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) for money laundering and mail and wire fraud. Right before investigators stormed his offices, he wired $16 million to a bank account in Morocco before he fled the U.S.
Now Albert Peter, a Florida resident though citizen of Switzerland, who's been in Switzerland while the mess is getting sorted out, is being sought to explain why over $8 million in funds from Rothstein's firm should not be clawed back for swindled investors. Much of the funds are alleged to have gone to begin start up Peter's Jewel River Cruise Line, headquartered in Switzerland with offices in Florida.
Those pawing through Rothstein's financial records now have "Love" letters between the two men alleging Peter was not a victim in the Ponzi scheme. From reading all the "Love" in the letters, which crosses over the mushy line at some points, they clearly have more than a business relationship, the word "love", used dozens of times by both men. They also want to know why if Rothstein was the hired lawyer for Silversea Cruises, why Rothstein was making bi-weekly payments of $9,615.38 to Albert Peter, identified in Rothstein's books as "Payroll Expenses" from June 2007 through May 2009. The payments total $403,845.95. It's expected that Peter will now have to prove that he worked for Rothstein for two years, while showing he wasn't involved in the Ponzi scheme.
During this time, Peter had an email account within Rothstein's law firm account, [email protected], while he was CEO at Sliversea. It's unclear if Silversea Cruises Chairman Manfredi Lefebvre knew that fact. What is clear is the fact that Rothstein and Peter were hiding something from Lefebvre, with Peter warning Rothstein to "be very careful" while Lefebvre was in town.
Albert Peter gal pal Tatiana Yoel, who received a $400,000.00 payment from Rothstein on October 24, 2006, at Peter's order, says that the money she received was directed to Silverseas Cruises. She doesn't want to pay the money back to investors, saying she only accepted it for Silversea, didn't benefit from it. Yoel has pointed out that Silversea has never taken legal action against her in relation to the $400k.
Silversea Cruises has remained oddly quiet during the past two years the investigation has continued, neither denying nor confirming real estate agent Tatiana Yoel worked for Silversea Cruises and had accepted the money on behalf of Silversea. Yoel has pushed that issue this month to the point Silversea Cruises and their former CEO will now have to respond to the issue. Rothstein had fled the country, hiding in Morocco, before returning to face the music. January 27, 2010, Rothstein plead guilty to all counts, being sentenced to 50 years in prison
The Ponzi/money laundering scheme was giving returns of 38.32% to 1951.45%. Peter was one of the so called “investors”. But, in emails back and forth from Rothstein to Peter, investigators hint the two were in it together, in order to fund a new cruise line based in Switzerland, with offices in Florida.
In one of the letters, Rothstein calls Peter a "swiss banker genius" and refers to money being received by Rothstein and Peter from those they "loaned" money to on a short term basis as being received by "us". Those secondary loans may have been tied, via Rothstein, to the mafia and loan sharking operations. The obvious question is how does a savvy "banker genius" not have enough sense to question the kind of crazy "interest" rates Rothstein was paying out?
Rothstein went state's evidence against the mafia. The feds said Rothstein is in prison, under witness protection after his conviction. It's widely reported that he's in prison. However, usually those who testify and give evidence against the mafia are put in witness protection, relocated to another state under an assumed name, do no prison time. If he's in prison under witness protection, there is no way to prove that.