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Caribbean Ponzi schemer sentenced to 30 years

MIAMI (Reuters) - A Jamaican banker who ran a Ponzi scheme that bilked thousands of investors in Florida and the Caribbean out of $220 million was sentenced on Thursday to 30 years in a U.S. prison, officials said.

David Smith, 42, pleaded guilty in an Orlando, Florida, court to charges of fraud and money laundering in March. He was extradited from the Turks and Caicos Islands where he was sentenced to six-and-a-half years in prison on similar charges.

A U.S. federal judge ruled the sentences run concurrently, the U.S. Attorney's office in Tampa, Florida, said in a statement. American officials plan to seek Smith's return to the United States once he has served his sentence in the Turks and Caicos, it said.

In a plea agreement earlier this year, Smith admitted to defrauding more than 6,000 investors from the United States, Jamaica and other Caribbean territories, promising his investments in foreign currency trading would yield monthly average returns of 10 percent.

Prosecutors say Smith, once a well-known philanthropist and supporter of a popular church in Jamaica, instead used the money to finance a lavish lifestyle that included a $2 million island home, a downpayment on a Lear jet and expensive cars and jewelry.

His victims included leading politicians and doctors in Jamaica, where he ran an investment house, according to Jamaican media reports.

Smith was also ordered to pay $55 million in restitution.

(Writing by Kevin Gray; Editing by Bernard Orr)

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